Russian and Chinese companies have been reportedly developing drones similar to the Iranian Shahed kamikaze drones together, but it’s not clear if, when or how they’d be supplied, said unnamed European officials reportedly familiar with the matter.

The officials, who asked not to be identified, told Bloomberg that talks between the unspecified companies had been put in place since 2023, where prototypes were built this year ahead of the planned delivery. They said the drones have not yet been deployed to Ukraine.

A person reportedly familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the US believes China is deciding whether it’d supply assembled units or unassembled kits to Russia.

Bloomberg said Russia’s defense and foreign ministries had not replied to its requests for comment at the time of publication.

Advertisement

There is evidence that Chinese companies have been supplying offroad vehicles and dual-use components to Russia, but Beijing’s official neutral stance has prevented it from sending – or allowing Chinese companies to send – lethal aid to Russia.

However, sending kamikaze drones would contradict that stance and signify a major shift in Chinese policies.

The new drones in question

The unnamed officials cited by Bloomberg said they couldn’t identify the drones under development, but the publication hinted that they could be Sunflower 200 drones similar in appearance to the Iranian Shahed drones, citing data from Chinese defense websites and several media outlets.

Ukraine’s Drone Pilots’ Academy – Giving Skills Where They’re Needed
Other Topics of Interest

Ukraine’s Drone Pilots’ Academy – Giving Skills Where They’re Needed

The secret training center teaches volunteers how to build, fix, arm and fly FPV drones into buildings, through the hatches of vehicles and carry out kamikaze attacks.

The drone was presented by a Chinese company at the Armiya-2023 military forum in Russia.

Since 2022, Moscow has been using thousands of Iranian Shahed drones to attack Ukrainian locations, particularly Ukrainian infrastructure. The drone’s low cost compared to missiles made it a favorite for Moscow in its attempts to overwhelm Ukrainian air defense during combined strikes.

Iran initially rejected claims that it supplied drones to Russia despite evidence that suggested otherwise, and it’s believed that production of the same drone, under the Russian Geran designation, was subsequently moved to Russia.

Advertisement

Considering recent successful Ukrainian strikes on Russia’s drone manufacturing facilities in Tatarstan, Moscow now has more reason to procure similar drones from other sources to secure its supply chains.

Chinese stance and supplies to Russia

Officially, China has boasted of a neutral stance and accused the West of fanning the flames in what it called “the Ukraine crisis,” echoing the Russian narrative.

“On the Ukraine crisis, it is quite clear to the international community who is calling for dialogue and striving for peace, and who is fueling the fight and inciting confrontation. We urge the relevant countries to immediately stop fueling the fight and inciting confrontation,” said Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the US.

However, the West said Beijing has been supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine, short of providing lethal aid.

US Ambassador to Beijing Nicholas Burns said on June 26 that despite claims of neutrality, the Chinese government actually supports Russia in the war against Ukraine by providing advanced technologies.

Advertisement

In November 2023, Kyiv Post reported that Russia’s Ministry of Defense procured thousands of off-road vehicles from Chinese suppliers, which were subsequently deployed in its war in Ukraine.

In June 2023, Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, revealed that an unspecified number of Chinese-made Tiger 4x4 armored vehicles were deployed with his forces in Ukraine, though it’s unclear if the vehicles were supplied directly through China or through third countries; it’s also unclear if Beijing was involved.

Last month, the EU imposed sanctions on 19 Chinese companies aimed at punishing what the West believes is Beijing's support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. The sanctions also included several companies located in Hong Kong and two global satellite giants.

Regarding the latest allegations, the unnamed source who said the US believes Beijing is weighing its options told Bloomberg that Washington still hasn’t concluded that China is sending lethal aid to Russia, though he said other nations may have a different interpretation.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter