Vladimir Putin has boasted that his country’s alliance with Iran has turned the tide of the war in Ukraine as he warmly welcomed Iran’s president to the Kremlin, where the pair also discussed the Israel-Hamas war.
The despot conveyed his thanks Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for catalysing ‘good momentum’ in the assault on Ukraine – despite reports of heavy Russian losses in recent weeks and months.
Tehran has been supplying Russia with a steady supply of weapons, including artilley shells, bullets and highly destructive kamikaze drones – and has quickly become one of the Kremlin’s closest military allies.
Putin has worked to deepen ties with Iran since launching his illegal war in Ukraine, and told Raisi: ‘Our relations are developing very well. Please convey my best wishes to leader Khamenei.’
He also said it was very important to discuss the situation in the Middle East, to which Raisi responded via a translator: ‘What is happening in Palestine and Gaza is of course genocide and a crime against humanity.’
Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi shook hands as they began talks in Moscow
Vladimir Putin (C) and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (L) arrive for their working lunch meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow
In a sure sign that the pair wish to signal a strengthening anti-West alliance, Raisi added it was ‘even more sad’ that Israel’s war on Hamas was supported by the United States and the West.
The meeting was held as part of a round of Middle East diplomacy that also included visits to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in efforts to raise Moscow’s profile as a power broker in the region.
The Russian president has cast the Israel-Hamas war as a failure of US diplomacy and suggested Moscow could be a mediator, thanks to its friendly ties with both Israel and the Palestinians.
‘It’s very important for us to exchange views of the situation in the region, particularly regarding the Palestinian situation,’ Mr Putin said as he welcomed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the start of their talks in Moscow.
Mr Raisi emphasised the need to quickly stop the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, declaring that ‘a child is killed there every 10 minutes’.
‘It’s not just a regional issue, it’s an issue for the entire humankind,’ he told Mr Putin, adding: ‘It’s necessary to find a quick solution.’
Iran, which has been a staunch supporter of Hamas, has warned repeatedly that the war, which erupted on October 7, could spread to other parts of the region.
Mr Putin’s meeting with Mr Raisi on Thursday follows their talks in Tehran in July 2022, where the Russian leader received strong support for his action in Ukraine.
Russia has secured supplies of Iranian Shahed-136 exploding drones that it has used extensively in its invasion.
Russian multiple launch rocket systems “Hurricane” fire rockets at Ukrainian military positions (undated)
Part of a downed Iranian-made Shahed-136 drone launched by Russia is seen near Kupiansk, Ukraine, September 13, 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (R) attend a meeting at Al Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 6
The drones, which Russia has rebranded as Geran-2 , have a range of more than 600 miles and can ‘loiter’ above potential targets for hours before being slammed into enemy soldiers, vehicles or buildings and exploding on impact.
Last month, the White House voiced concern that Tehran may also provide Moscow with ballistic missiles for use against Ukraine.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has pointed to Iran’s announcement that it had finalised a deal to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, and noted that Iran is looking to buy additional military equipment from Russia, including attack helicopters, radars and combat-trainer aircraft.
Mr Putin’s talks with Mr Raisi come a day after the Russian leader discussed the hostilities in the Gaza Strip during his trip to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the key participants in international efforts to negotiate a settlement.
Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia are close US allies, they have developed strong business ties with Russia.
On a visit to Abu Dhabi’s Qasr al-Watan palace, Mr Putin was greeted with a 21-gun salute and a flyby of UAE military jets trailing smoke in the colours of the Russian flag.
Prior to sitting down for talks with Mr Raisi, Mr Putin on Thursday also hosted Oman’s Crown Prince Theyazin bin Haitham, extolling prospects for co-operation in energy and tourism.
A picture taken in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 7, 2023
Mr Putin, who has limited his foreign travel since sending troops into Ukraine, visited China in October and made several trips to former Soviet nations in recent months.
He faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the war in Ukraine.
Neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia has signed the ICC founding treaty, meaning they did not face an obligation to detain Mr Putin over the warrant accusing him of being personally responsible for the abductions of children from Ukraine during the war.
Mr Putin skipped a summit in South Africa amid speculation he could be arrested on arrival.