Russia finally started using it in the war

Iranian drones spread fear among Ukrainians

Part of the plane "136 - Shahd", which was shot down by members of the Ukrainian army in the sky over Odessa.


Awoken by a frightened roar in the air, Marina Kondratieva ran for shelter with her two children in the basement in Odessa.

The Iranian drones, which Russia recently started using in the war with Ukraine, renew the panic among the population, even if their effectiveness is limited.

"Now I realize that everything can change in five minutes," said Marina, a resident of an upscale neighborhood in the city, whose balcony overlooks the Black Sea.

Since returning from Cyprus, where she and her two sons, aged five and six, took refuge with her in-laws for three months, Marina has regained hope.

Odessa, the capital of the southwest of the country and the main port in this region, which Moscow put at the top of its priorities at the beginning of the war, without being able to approach it, seemed far from Russian appetite.

Sandbags and other checkpoints that had marred the Old City were removed, and bombings became less frequent.

The Kyiv counter-offensive in the northeast also gave hope.

But Saturday at 6 am, the "buzz around the house" brought Marina, once again, to the heart of the struggle.

A video clip filmed by her husband and sent to Agence France-Presse shows a procession that continues to fly, unimpeded, despite the heavy shooting.

These marches have played an important role since the start of the war on February 24 in terms of reconnaissance, launching missiles, or dropping bombs.

But the ingenuity of Ukrainian civilians who have turned game-like marches into weapons of war greatly helps Ukraine, whose population also relies heavily on Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, which doubled down on strikes against the Russians.

Also, Kyiv got the American Switchblades, whose cameras delighted residents this summer, when they filmed an attack they carried out on the surprised enemy.

As for the Russian army, for its part, it has lost a number of marches since the beginning of the war, while the country is finding it difficult to manufacture them due to international sanctions.

Therefore, Moscow resorted to Iran to import and deploy the Mohajer-6 drones, intended for reconnaissance and attack, over Ukraine, and the long-range Shahed-136 (2,500 km).

Very low efficacy.

In response, Ukraine "significantly" reduced Iran's diplomatic presence and withdrew the Iranian ambassador's accreditation.

A military spokeswoman, Natalia Gumenyuk, confirmed to AFP that since September 13, when Kyiv shot down the first Iranian drone, 20 of them were seen in southern Ukraine, half of which have been neutralized.

She added that the "Shahed-136" drones are very difficult to spot, because they are flying at a very low altitude, but they emit a lot of noise, "which makes them heard from afar.

Although its effectiveness is (very low), it exerts (psychological pressure on the population).

For his part, Jeremy Penny, an analyst at the Jane's Center for Research in Britain, stressed that "the Iranian defense industries focus on low cost more than quality, so their systems generally record a high failure rate."

He added that "Shahed-136" targets are GPS locked, and their explosive charge is "relatively weak", which requires very accurate coordinates, and therefore reliable military intelligence behind Ukrainian lines, something the Russians are still striving for.

"For now, Iranian drones will not have a significant impact on the war," he added.

But it is different for the morale of the Ukrainian population.

Irina Korochenkaya, 57, has moved to Odessa to find some peace.

The woman, originally from Mykolaiv, two hours away, where the Russians carry out strikes daily, said a bomb hit her "into a garage" in April.

And at dawn on Sunday, she first heard an anti-aircraft siren and then two explosions, before she saw a drone from her balcony above a 23-storey building, followed by a “new explosion” and a “large cloud of smoke,” as she recounted.

"What happens next?" asked the former executive.

Will Odessa be safe?

• Iranian defense industries focus on low cost more than quality, so their systems generally record a high failure rate.

• Moscow resorted to Iran to import the Mohajer-6 drones, which are intended for reconnaissance and attack, and deploy them over Ukraine, and the long-range Shahed-136 (2500 km).

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