Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran on Tuesday for his first international trip beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union since launching his invasion of Ukraine, which effectively ruptured ties with the West.
Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, and with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday.
“I am very pleased to be on the hospitable Iranian soil…We can boast about record figures in terms of trade growth,” said Putin in a bilateral meeting with Raisi. “We are strengthening our cooperation on international security issues, making a significant contribution to the settlement of the Syrian conflict.”
Raisi also hailed a “significant” commitment to security cooperation between the two countries, saying the two countries had “good experience” in fighting terrorism.
Also on Tuesday, Iran’s national oil company signed a $40 billion agreement with Russia’s state-run gas company Gazprom, according to a statement from Shana, the news agency for Iran’s oil ministry. The deal includes development of Iranian gas fields and building new gas export pipelines.
Khamenei meanwhile hailed mutual cooperation between Russia and Iran as “deeply beneficial.”
“World events show Iran and Russia’s need for increasing mutual cooperation,” he said in a statement.
Referring to Putin’s war in Ukraine, Khamenei also said the expansion of western security alliance NATO had to be “stopped.”
“NATO is a dangerous entity. The West is totally opposed to a strong, independent Russia. If the way is opened for NATO, it will recognize no limits,” Khamenei said. “If it hadn’t been stopped in Ukraine, it would have later started a similar war in Crimea.”
Russia’s relationship with Iran has alerted Western officials as Putin prepares to ramp up ground offensives in eastern Ukraine following his troops’ capture of the Luhansk region.
Recently declassified US intelligence indicates that Iran is expected to supply Russia with “hundreds” of drones – including weapons-capable drones – for use in the war in Ukraine, with Iran preparing to begin training Russian forces on how to operate them as early as late July, according to White House officials.
“Russia turning to Iran for the help speaks volumes about