WASHINGTON -- Russia is set to deliver an advanced satellite system to Iran that will vastly improve its spying capabilities, according to a US media report.
Moscow is preparing to give Iran a Kanopus-V satellite with a high-resolution camera, the Washington Post reported Thursday (June 10).
It will allow the Islamic republic to monitor facilities of its adversaries across the Middle East, the paper said, citing current and former US and Middle Eastern officials.
The report comes just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin meets his American counterpart Joe Biden for Wednesday talks in Switzerland on the US leader's first foreign tour.
It could add to a long list of grievances in Washington ahead of the talks, from election interference to hacking operations linked to the Russian government.
The officials said the launch of the satellite could happen within months and is the result of multiple trips to Russia by leaders of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The satellite would be launched in Russia and contain Russian-made hardware, according to details shared by the officials.
Iran could "task" the new satellite with spying on specific locations.
There are fears that it would share such imagery with its proxies in Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, one official said, among other concerns about Iran's ballistic missile and drone development.
Russian trainers have helped ground crews who would operate the satellite from a new site near Karaj, Iran, the Post reported.
The deal could allow Tehran greater monitoring of the Persian Gulf, Israeli bases and America's troop presence in Iraq.
Details of the sale also come at a delicate time when world powers are trying to reconstitute the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran, however continuing violations by the Iranian regime -- including the UN concerns in late May that Iran's enriched uranium stockpile was 16 times over the allowed limit -- have the deal hanging by a thread.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday denied the report.
For Russia, supporting Iran's military buildup helps it secure gains that the two countries have made in Syria, where both regimes have propped up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at a deadly cost to human life.
For years, Iran and Russia have pumped fighters and money into the Syrian conflict as part of their drive to increase their geopolitical influence.
Many of those fighters include Russian mercenaries, including members of the Wagner Group and Vega, who do the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin under a cover of plausible deniability.
Iran has enjoyed Russian support on the international stage in the past.
Last August, Russia was among the countries that voted not to extend the United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Iran -- a move that has enabled the Islamic Republic to purchase weapons on the international market and to supply more dangerous and destabalising weapons to its proxies throughout the region.
Russia has also defended Iran's right to launch satellites.
After the launch of Iran's first military satellite in 2020 -- described by the US military as a "tumbling webcam" -- Russia dismissed claims that Tehran was violating a 2015 UN Security Council resolution against Tehran advancing any nuclear-capable ballistic missile activities.
The United States warned that the launch -- which took place as the coronavirus pandemic battered Iran -- was a cover for Tehran's development of missiles and represented a significant advance in its long-range missile capability.