Russia paid $2 billion gold bullion to purchase Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drones

Russia has reportedly paid Iran nearly two billion dollars in gold bullion for Shahed-136 drones used to terrorise Ukrainian cities.

‌Moscow signed a $1.75 billion contract for 6,000 of the unmanned aerial vehicles from an offshoot of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) last year, according to leaked documents posted online by a hacker group called the Prana Network.

‌It reportedly paid in gold bullion, shipping more than two tonnes to the manufacturer Sahara Thunder.

‌The drones, repeatedly used in deadly attacks against Ukraine, are believed to be upgraded at a production facility in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan before being deployed by Moscow’s forces.‌

“In 2022, a $1.75 billion contract was signed for 6,000 Shaheds + hardware + software. Russia paid in literal gold; it shipped a little over two tonnes in bullion,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

‌Prana Network said it had penetrated Sahara Thunder’s servers to obtain details of the deal with Russia. The company is believed to be part of Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center, which is linked to the IRGC’s Aerospace Force.

‌Citing the group’s findings, Mr Gerashchenko said the cost of each Shahed-136 was believed to be $193,000 per unit when ordering 6,000 drones and about $290,000 per unit when ordering 2,000.

‌With production localised in Russia, the cost for the country’s defence ministry would drop to $165,500 per drone, he added.

‌Bryan Clark, a former special assistant to the chief of US naval operations, told The Telegraph the leak underscored the growing military-industrial relationship between Russia and Iran.

‌“The relationship is clearly intensifying and becoming more comprehensive,” he said.

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