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Update – Ukraine conflict: Belarus seeking to manufacture Iranian weapons, report says

Belarus is seeking to establish an indigenous Shahed production facility. An Iranian-made Shahed-136 is seen in an underground facility, in a video released by Iran's IRGC in March 2022. (IMA Media)

Belarus is likely seeking to establish an indigenous Iranian Shahed loitering munition production facility, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on 31 July.

Belarusian Defence Minister Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin and his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani met in Iran on 31 July to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and a bilateral military co-operation plan. The negotiation likely involved discussing weapon deals including establishing a production facility for Shahed loitering munitions in Belarus, ISW said.

This followed reports from the Ukrainian National Resistance Centre in May that an Iranian delegation, purportedly organised by Russian intelligence services, was in Belarus to assess the possibility of adapting local factories to produce Iranian munitions. Iranian engineers are considering converting a plant in Gomel, Belarus, the centre added.

Belarus, under President Aleksandr Lukashenko, has partly facilitated both the logistics and conduct of Russia's war in Ukraine, including providing Russia with ammunition from Belarusian stocks and exporting Western-origin components and goods to support the Russian defence industry. This partnership, along with Russia's relationship with Iran, has strengthened since the conflict in Ukraine began, in part because of Western sanctions targeting and limiting Russia's ability to source large quantities of components necessary for producing military hardware. This has forced them to source platforms and ammunition from partners such as Iran and North Korea.

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