Belarus wants to secure an agreement with Iran to produce Shahed drones in a converted factory in its southeastern Gomel Region, which borders Ukraine just north of the Dnipro’s “Sea of Kyiv” reservoir, western analysts have said.

According to Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analysts, Belarusian Defense Minister Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin arrived in Iran on July 31 and met with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding and a plan for bilateral military cooperation for 2023.

As Minister of Defense of Iran, Ashtiani holds the primary responsibility for negotiating military acquisitions and foreign sales of military equipment and weapons.

According to ISW, Khrenin and Ashtiani probably discussed arms deals during the meeting. Belarus also sought to come to an agreement on the Iranian production of Shahed drones in Belarus following reports that Iran was trying to turn a plant in the Gomel region of Belarus into a Shahed drone plant.

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These are not the first attempts by Belarus and Iran to jointly produce weapons. In November 2022, Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, reported Belarus’ plans to produce shells for barrel artillery and MLRS.

Shortly thereafter, at the end of November 2022, a Belarusian delegation visited Iran. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the list of issues for discussion with the Iranians concerned the entire production cycle - from the technology of smelting steel for components of ammunition to the markings applied to shells and containers used for their packaging.

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Iran has become one of Russia's key political allies since Moscow launched its Ukraine offensive in 2022, with Tehran supplying crucial drone technology.

Then in early May, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) reported that Iranian authorities would seek to avoid Western sanctions and pressure from other countries by transferring production to Belarus for Russia’s use on Ukrainian targets.

The AFU Special Operations Forces’ Center for National Resistance confirmed in May that Iranian engineers on a business trip visited Belarus’ Gomel plant, which had already been retrofitting drones.

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The National Resistance Center said that the corresponding development of events indicates that Russia continues to extend its control to the defense sector of Belarus, and the deployment of a full-fledged production of Iranian drones in Belarus would help the Russian Federation solve the logistical problems of transporting drones from Iran.

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