February 12, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Lebanese Hezbollah forces train Russians at a base in Syria on the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine

Institute for the Study of War

Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that elements of Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are training Russian drone operators at the Shayrat Air Base in Syria. The GUR stated that LH and IRGC trainers are training Russian operators how to use Shahed-136/-131, Ababil-3, and Qods Raab 85 drones and that LH commander Kamal Abu Sadiq is heading the training effort. Iranian-backed militias and Russian forces are located at Shayrat Air Base, which is the second largest Iranian air base in Syria’s Homs Province after the Tiyas T-4 Air Base. The IRGC and LH previously conducted training for Russian forces on Iranian-made drones at the Russian-controlled Palmyra Military Airport, also in Homs Province. The Israeli Air Force notably struck Shayrat Air Base and other Syrian army Iranian-backed militia sites throughout Homs Province on February 7. The GUR report suggests that Russian forces are expanding drone training to Shayrat Air Base utilizing existing Russian military infrastructure and leveraging relationships with LH and other Iranian-backed militant groups.

The Russian State Duma is considering a bill to restrict actors that the Russian government designates as “undesirable” from entering Russia, likely as part of ongoing efforts to censor opposition media outlets and dismantle ties between Russia and foreign and international non-governmental organizations. Russian State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption Head Vasily Piskarev announced on February 12 that he and other Duma deputies submitted a bill that would allow the Russian government to designate foreign organizations whose founders or participants are allegedly affiliated with foreign governments as “undesirable.” The bill would also prohibit foreign and stateless individuals who are involved in such “undesirable” organizations from entering Russia. This bill will likely prohibit journalists from Russian opposition outlets based outside of Russia and foreign outlets with Russian-language services (such as the UK’s BBC and Germany‘s Deutsche Welle, among others) from entering Russia, thereby restricting their ability to report on domestic Russian affairs, and will likely further block the work of international and foreign non-governmental organizations in Russia. Russian authorities can also bring criminal charges and revoke acquired Russian citizenship from individuals found guilty of participating in a designated “undesirable” organization. Piskarev recently announced that the Duma is considering another bill that will ban Russian citizens and companies from advertising on platforms owned by organizations designated as “foreign agents,” likely in an effort to use financial coercion to censor Russian opposition media and critical Russian ultranationalist milbloggers. ISW continues to assess that the Kremlin has been attempting to consolidate control over and stifle dissent in the Russian information space ahead of the March 2024 Russian presidential election, although this bill will likely severely restrict opposition media operations in Russia for the long term.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that elements of Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are training Russian drone operators at the Shayrat Air Base in Syria.
  • The Russian State Duma is considering a bill to restrict actors that the Russian government designates as “undesirable” from entering Russia, likely as part of ongoing efforts to censor opposition media outlets and dismantle ties between Russia and foreign and international non-governmental organizations.
  • Boris Nadezhdin, the only openly anti-war Russian presidential candidate, filed two lawsuits in the Russian Supreme Court challenging the Russian Central Election Commission’s (CEC) refusal to register him as a candidate as the Kremlin continues efforts to suppress popular opposition while trying to preserve the veneer of legitimacy of Russian presidential elections.
  • The European Union (EU) is beginning to take concrete steps towards possibly using frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna and Donetsk City and in western Zaporizhia Oblast, and Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kupyansk and Kreminna.
  • South Korean news outlet Yonhap News Agency reported on February 12 that North Korea has developed 240mm guided multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS) mortar that North Korea may export to Russia.
  • Russian authorities continue to use youth engagement programs to Russify Ukrainian youth.

For full report https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-12-2024 

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