VLADIMIR Putin's forces are having to source equipment from North Korea and Iran as the impacts of sanctions and military losses in Ukraine take their toll, according to defence experts. 

British defence intelligence analysts think Moscow is “increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states” as its own stockpiles are depleted. 

An update published by the UK’s Ministry of Defence pointed to claims that Ukrainian forces had shot down an Iranian-made drone as evidence of Moscow’s use of systems sourced from Tehran. 

Ukraine said it shot down the drone near Kupiansk as part of the offensive which has helped punch through Russian lines around Kharkiv on the eastern front. 

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The image suggested the Shahed “suicide drone” had been shot down by Ukrainian forces and had not detonated on impact as intended, although little information was released by the authorities in Kyiv.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said: “Russia has highly likely deployed Iranian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) in Ukraine for the first time. 

“On September 13 2022, Ukrainian officials reported that their forces had shot down a Shahed-136 UAV near Kupiansk, in the area of Ukraine’s successful ongoing offensive. 

“The Shahed-136 is a one-way attack UAV with a claimed range of 2500 kilometres. 

“Similar Iranian-manufactured systems have likely been used in attacks in the Middle East, including against the oil tanker MT Mercer Street in July 2021.”

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Russian forces have sustained heavy losses since the beginning of the invasion in February, and sanctions have led to difficulty accessing key components for its weapons systems. 

The MoD update said: “Russia is almost certainly increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle. 

“The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggests there is a realistic possibility that Russia is attempting to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more strategic targets farther into Ukrainian territory.”