New Report Finds Western-Made Components in Iranian-Made UAV Used by Russia in Suspected War Crimes

A new report has found that Russian forces have used Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs that contain Western components to commit suspected war crimes in Ukraine.

Co-authored by the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (NAKO), Truth Hounds, and Global Diligence LLP, and entitled, ‘Terror in the details: Western-made Components in Russia’s Shahed-136 Attacks’, the report details ten attacks where the Shahed-136 was found to have been involved. The attacks targeted residential buildings, power plants, businesses, a school and a children’s summer camp. In each instance, the report examines the context of the attack, the presence of military objects or activity in the vicinity of target, and the means by which they have identified the Shahed-136 as being used.

The report finds that Russia’s Shahed-136 attacks are intentionally aimed at the civilian population and infrastructure, with no tangible military advantage gained as a result of the attacks; the primary purpose is deemed to be terrorising the civilian population.

Multiple Shahed-136 fuselages that have been used by Russia in Ukraine were also analysed. They contained a variety of components manufactured by American, Japanese, Canadian, and Swiss companies, ranging from microprocessors and semiconductors to ethernet transceivers and memory.

The report sounds the alarm as to the Russian military’s reliance on Western-made components in its war against Ukraine and the urgent need to restrict the continued supply of such components. It provides comprehensive recommendations across sanctions and export controls, including enforcement, corporate due diligence and know-your-customer procedures, as well as diplomatic coordination to effectively exploit Russia’s reliance upon Western components, described as its “Achilles heel.”

Simon Papuashvili, Programme Director of IPHR, said: “As Russia relentlessly targets Ukrainian cities with devastating impact through the use of long-range guided rocket systems and deadly Iranian-made drones, it remains distressing to witness western-manufactured components finding their way into the hands of authoritarian regimes responsible for producing weapons utilized in heinous war crimes that we are documenting on the ground. The disheartening reality is that intermediaries adeptly exploit existing sanctions regimes, effortlessly uncovering loopholes. It is high time for Western companies to take proactive measures, exerting greater efforts to impede the procurement of their products by suspected war criminals who inflict terror upon countless innocent civilians in Ukraine.”

Olena Tregub, Executive Director of Nako, said: “Rather than allowing the reliance on Western components to become an Achilles heel in the production of Iranian drones, we persist in making Western technologies their advantage. It is crucial to change this situation to effectively prevent further instances of war crimes and genocide in Ukraine.”

The report can be viewed here: 

Note to editors:

  • The suspected war crime case studies were drawn from a dataset of 25 attacks since September 2022 found to have utilised the Shahed-136. This dataset was based on open-source reporting and evidence collected by Truth Hounds’ field teams.
  • Each case study was categorised based on the type of suspected breach of international humanitarian law, with accompanying footage and other evidence geolocated, verified, and archived.
  • The authors of the report are not imputing legal wrongdoing on the part of companies named throughout. An assessment of any legal consequence to having manufactured a component used inside a weapon used by Russia as part of a suspected war crime is outside the scope of the report. The report is released for the sole purpose of highlighting moral and ethical concerns, encouraging further discussion, and calling for better business due diligence and risk assessment.
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  • International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) is an independent, non-governmental organisation founded in 2008. With a presence in Brussels, Kyiv, and Tbilisi, IPHR works closely with civil society groups in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and Central Asia to raise human rights concerns at the international level and promote respect for the rights of vulnerable communities. IPHR has been documenting atrocity crimes committed in the context of Russia’s war on Ukraine since 2014 and has been using collected evidence for accountability purposes.
  • The Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (NAKO) is a voluntary, non-profit, non-partisan organisation pursuing the goals of minimising opportunities for corruption in Ukraine’s defence sector through strong research, effective advocacy, and increased public awareness. NAKO was established as a program of the Transparency International Defence and Security program in 2016 and since then has evolved as a self-standing organisation within the Transparency International global movement. In November 2022, it collaborated with the Wall Street Journal to reveal the western supply chain behind Iranian drones.
  • Truth Hounds is a team of experienced human rights professionals documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity in conflict contexts since 2014. Truth Hounds fights against impunity for international crimes and grave human rights violations through investigation, documentation, monitoring, advocacy and problem solving for vulnerable groups. Truth Hounds documenters mobilise all available resources and documentation methodology to create a systemic approach to its documentation work, and promote accountability for grave human rights abuses and international crimes.
  • Global Diligence LLP is a partnership of established international lawyers with practical experience of living and working in high-risk areas. Global Diligence team advises and represents States, businesses, organisations, or individuals on international criminal law and human rights. Focused on challenges in unstable and conflict-affected regions, Global Diligence provides mapping, training, and project management for capacity building programs.