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Isolated by West, Putin arrives in Tehran to deepen Russian-Iranian relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi hold a meeting in Tehran on July 19, 2022. (Sergei SAVOSTYANOV / SPUTNIK / AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi hold a meeting in Tehran on July 19, 2022. (Sergei SAVOSTYANOV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Iran for a visit intended to deepen ties with regional heavyweights as part of Moscow’s challenge to the United States and Europe amid its grinding campaign in Ukraine.

In only his second trip abroad since Russian tanks rolled into its neighbor in February, Putin is scheduled to hold talks with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the pressing issues facing the region, including the conflict in Syria and a UN-backed proposal to resume exports of Ukrainian grain to ease the global food crisis.

As the West heaps sanctions on Russia and the costly campaign drags on, Putin is seeking to bolster ties with Tehran, a fellow target of severe US sanctions and a potential military and trade partner. In recent weeks, Russian officials visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice to review Tehran’s weapons-capable drones for possible use in Ukraine, the White House has alleged.

Iran rolled out a long red carpet for Putin at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, where Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji greeted him warmly before he was whisked into his presidential convoy to the city.

But perhaps most crucially, the Tehran trip offers Putin a chance for a high-stakes meeting with Erdogan, who has sought to help broker talks on a peaceful settlement of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as well as help negotiations to unblock Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

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