EU targets Iran over protest crackdown, Russia drone sales
BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union foreign ministers imposed new sanctions Monday on Iranian clerics, senior officials and top state media employees over the brutal crackdown on protesters, and also on experts they believe are linked to supplying Russia with explosive drones to use in its war against Ukraine.
The ministers imposed bans on traveling to Europe and froze the assets of 20 individuals. They also froze the assets of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, saying the media outlet was a “mouthpiece” for “the violent response to the recent demonstrations in Iran.”
Iranian women — and some men — have protested the government’s severe restrictions on their daily life since late September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
Iran executed a second prisoner convicted over crimes committed during the nationwide protests challenging the country’s theocracy, publicly hanging him Monday from a construction crane as a gruesome warning to others.
In a statement, the EU ministers called on Iran “to immediately end the strongly condemnable practice of imposing and carrying out death sentences against protesters as well as to annul without delay the recent death penalty sentences that were already pronounced.”
The ministers also hit out at Iran for supplying drones to Russia, saying the “weapons provided by Iran are being used indiscriminately by Russia against Ukrainian civilian population and infrastructure causing horrendous destruction and human suffering.”
Four people and four “entities” - often agencies, media outlets, companies or organizations - were hit with sanctions “for undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s Western-reinforced air defenses have made it difficult for Russian warplanes to operate, and explosive drones are a cheap weapon that can seek out and destroy targets while spreading fear among both troops and civilians.
Russia stands accused of sending waves of Iranian-made drones over Ukraine to strike at power plants and other key infrastructure. The EU has said it had evidence that Iran sold drones to Russia since the war’s beginning in February.
The foreign ministers warned Tehran against supplying more weapons and “in particular any steps toward possible transfers of short-range ballistic missiles to Russia, which would constitute a serious escalation.”
They said the EU would respond to any act that supports Russian aggression against Ukraine “and hold Iran accountable, including through additional restrictive measures.”
Last month, the EU imposed sanctions on the chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the guard corp’s Aerospace Force and a company making drones that the bloc alleged Russia has used in Ukraine.