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Italian authorities seize US-made, Russia-bound drone shipment

Drones Russia
The Italian financial corps found the drones in the Southern port of Gioia Tauro, Repubblica reveals. Investigators suspect the final destination would have been Russia, which is starved for high-tech assets because of Western sanctions

Drones ahoy. Repubblica reports that a shipment of US-made drones was found and seized by the financial corps in the Southern port of Gioia Tauro. They were apparently meant to make their way to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to be used in the war against Ukraine.

  • Decode39 learned that the local authorities have already opened an investigation. The General Directorate of Customs and the General Command of the Guardia di Finanza, the financial police corps, are directly involved in the matter.

Tracking the shipment. The containers had just arrived from Canada and were meant to sail off to Qatar, after stopping in Italy. Officially, Qatar was meant to be the final destination. However, that could have been just another stop before the containers ended up in Russia

A matter of components. Western sanctions have seriously damaged the Kremlin’s ability to purchase high-end tech. Moscow would have been more interested in the drones’ complex guidance and control system rather than the actual vehicle.

  • When the Italian authorities notified the Americans of the seizure, which was done in accordance to regulations on dual-use items, an FBI team immediately flew from Washington to Gioia Tauro via Rome, explained Repubblica.

And of routes. Decode39 understands the drones were officially meant to be deployed during the World Cup, to be held in Qatar in November and December. But as Repubblica points out, the ship could have turned off its tracker after departing Gioia Tauro and sailed, incognito, towards Syria.

  • The country is controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, a steadfast ally of President Putin, and houses a key Russian military base, Tartus, which would hypothetically be a suitable destination for such precious cargo.

The Gioia Tauro crossroads. The Italian port, Europe’s eighth-largest port of call, has often been the focus of international attention. It was rumoured to become a crucial part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and there were talks of a drug trafficking operation run by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization supportive of the Assad regime and inextricably linked to the Iranian regime and its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Russia has Iranian drones incoming. On Tuesday (even as the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, linked to the IRGC, was in Rome to meet with his counterpart Luigi Di Maio and Vatican diplomacy), US national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned that the Iranian government was preparing to provide Russia with up to “several hundred UAVs,” including those with firepower, shortly.

  • This was the first time the US administration publicly accused Iran of helping Russia in the war in Ukraine.

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