Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Iran next week, the Kremlin said Tuesday, a day after the US warned that Tehran could provide Moscow with drones for its invasion of Ukraine.
During a trip to Tehran next Tuesday, Putin will attend a trilateral meeting with the leaders of Iran and Turkey — Ibrahim Raisi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, respectively — the so-called Astana format of meetings for Syria-related talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
It will be Putin’s second trip abroad since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. In June, the Russian leader traveled to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, two former Soviet states in central Asia.
Russia and Iran are Syrian President Bashar Assad’s most prominent military and political supporters. Turkey, on the other hand, has played a role in the Syrian civil war by arming the forces opposing Assad, primarily the Free Syrian Army.
Putin’s visit to Iran will follow US President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia this week, during which Iran’s nuclear program and malign activities in the region will be a key subject of discussion.
Peskov told reporters that on the visit to Tehran, Putin will also have a separate meeting with Erdogan.
In March, Erdogan helped mediate talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives in Istanbul. Peskov said there was no discussion about a new round of such negotiations.
The White House said Monday that it believes Russia is turning to Iran to provide it with “hundreds” of drones, including those capable of carrying weapons, for use in Ukraine.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said it was unclear whether Iran had already provided any of the vehicles to Russia, but said the US has “information” that indicates Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use them as soon as this month.
“Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline,” Sullivan told reporters, referring to drones by the acronym for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Iran hasn’t commented on Sullivan’s statement.
Iran long has worked on the development of drones, including so-called loitering munitions, the “kamikaze” drones like the Switchblade that the US has delivered to Ukraine.
The US decision to publicly reveal that the two countries’ chief regional rival was helping to rearm Russia comes as both Israel and Saudi Arabia have resisted joining global efforts to punish Russia for its action in Ukraine due to their domestic interests.
In Tehran, Mohammadrez Pourebrahimi, the head of the Iranian Parliament’s economic committee, told state-run news agency IRNA that Putin’s trip would seek to improve economic relations between the two sanctions-hit nations.