Vladimir Putin's forces are being forced to source equipment from North Korea and Iran as the impacts of sanctions and military losses in Ukraine continue, defence experts believe.
The latest Ministry of Defence (MOD) Intelligence thinks that Moscow is "increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states" as its own stockpiles are depleted.
An update published by the MOD 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 claimed it shot down the drone near Kupiansk as part of the offensive that has punched through Russian lines around Kharkiv on the eastern front.
The image suggested the Shahed "suicide drone" had been shot down by Ukrainian forces and had not detonated on impact as designed, though little information was released by the authorities in Kyiv.
US intelligence in early September reported that Russia was is in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for its invasion of Ukraine.
MOD intelligence appears to be supporting the earlier US intelligence officials – first reported by The New York Times – that believed the Russians would look to purchase additional North Korean military equipment.
The MOD 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 2,500 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."
Russian forces have sustained heavy losses since the invasion of Ukraine began in February, and sanctions have restricted access to key components of its weapons systems.
The MOD update also said that "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 frontlines 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," it ended.