For the second time in as many months, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Qassem Soleimani reportedly met with Russian officials in Moscow this week.
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, visited Moscow as part of the increased cooperation between Moscow and Tehran to help bolster mutual ally President Bashar Assad in Syria, according to a report in the Lebanese al-Safir newspaper.
In the past week, Russia has reportedly dispatched troops, tanks and arms to Syria to help bolster its ally in Damascus. Cargo planes carrying the supplies reportedly flew through Iranian airspace from Russia.
The report couldn’t be independently verified.
Tuesday’s report came after Soleimani was said to visit Moscow in July to meet with senior Russian officials, potentially violating a UN travel ban.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow assured Washington that Soleimani hadn’t visited Moscow.
“I have no information whatsoever that he visited Russia,” Ryabkov said, adding that Moscow had told Washington so and was surprised to hear the continuing expression of concern from the US.
Fox News has reported that Soleimani visited Moscow in July for meetings with President Vladimir Putin and his defense minister. US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Thursday about the issue.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov had earlier denied that the president had been in such a meeting.
US officials said Washington was trying to determine if Soleimani had traveled to Moscow in violation of the UN travel ban. Soleimaini has been on the UN sanctions blacklist since 2007, which also requires that all countries freeze his overseas assets.
AP contributed to this report.