Vladimir Putin under pressure to announce victory in Ukraine
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Putin has arrived in Iran amid efforts by the Kremlin to secure a supply of Iranian-designed drones to bolster Russia’s military amid the war in Ukraine. Touching down Tehran for the visit, which will also include a trilateral summit on Syria with Iran and Turkey, Putin seemed to struggle with the final step of the aircraft stairs.
The Russian leader, flanked by bodyguards, did a half step, half jump as he exited the Russian presidential jumbo jet.
Putin appeared unsteady as he executed the move, narrowly avoiding an embarrassing fall.
The visit on Tuesday for talks with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei marked the Kremlin leader’s first trip outside the former Soviet Union since Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
In Tehran, Putin will also hold his first face-to-face meeting since the invasion with a NATO leader, Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss a deal aimed at allowing the resumption of Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports as well as peace in Syria.
Putin’s trip, which comes just days after US President Joe Biden visited Israel and Saudi Arabia, sends a strong message to the West about Moscow’s plans to forge closer strategic ties with Iran, China, and India in the face of Western sanctions.
“The contact with Khamenei is very important,” Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters in Moscow.
“A trusting dialogue has developed between them on the most important issues on the bilateral and international agenda.”
“On most issues, our positions are close or identical.”
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For Iran, also chafing under Western economic sanctions and at loggerheads with the United States over Tehran’s nuclear programme and a range of other issues, Putin’s visit is timely.
Its clerical leaders are keen to strengthen strategic relations with Russia in the face of an emerging U.S.-backed Gulf Arab-Israeli bloc that could tilt the Middle East balance of power further away from Iran.
“Considering the evolving geopolitical ties after the Ukraine war, Tehran tries to secure Moscow’s support in its confrontation with Washington and its regional allies,” said a senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named.
Emboldened by high oil prices since the Ukraine war, Iran is betting that with Russia’s support it could pressure Washington to offer concessions for the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal.
However, Russia’s increased tilt towards Beijing in recent months has significantly reduced Iran’s crude exports to China – a key source of income for Tehran since U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in 2018.
In May, Reuters reported that Iran’s crude exports to China have fallen sharply as Beijing favoured heavily discounted Russian barrels, leaving almost 40 million barrels of Iranian oil stored on tankers at sea in Asia and seeking buyers.
Ahead of Putin’s arrival, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Russian gas producer Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding worth around $40 billion.
High on the agenda in Tuesday’s trilateral talks that will also include Turkey will be efforts to reduce violence in Syria, where Erdogan has threatened to launch more military operations to extend 30-km (20-mile) deep “safe zones” along the border.
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