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Putin and Raisi discuss deepening Russia-Iran ties

The two leaders are strengthening ties as they face growing discontent at home and isolation from the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart President Ebrahim Raisi discussed deepening political, trade and economic cooperation in a phone call on Saturday, their governments said in separate statements.

The two leaders “touched on some pressing bilateral issues with a focus on how to develop cooperation in the political, trade and economic fields, including in the field of transportation and logistics,” the Kremlin said.

“They agreed that the relevant Russian and Iranian institutions will increase contact,” the statement added.

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The Iranian presidency said Raisi welcomed Russia’s “desire to strengthen economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic,” especially the development of transport lines in the Eurasia region.

“This transit route will become an attractive route for the economy and trade in the world,” Raisi said.

The statement added that Putin had expressed sympathy for the Iranian government and people over the attack on a Shi’ite religious shrine in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, which killed 15 people and wounded 40 others.

Putin “condemned terrorism in any form,” he said.

The call comes on the heels of a meeting between Russia’s top security official Nikolai Patrushev and Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani in Tehran on Wednesday, in which they discussed the situation in Ukraine and measures to combat what they called “Western interference” inside. affairs, according to Russian state media.

Iran has faced a backlash in recent weeks after Ukraine accused Russia of using Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones in attacks on cities and energy infrastructure in recent weeks.

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Iran said last week that it had sold the unmanned vehicles to Russia “months” before the start of the war in Ukraine.

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Iranian officials said on numerous occasions that Tehran had “defense” cooperation with Russia, but had not supplied the Kremlin with weapons “for the purpose of being used in the war in Ukraine.”

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on various Iranian entities and officials over the sale of drones to Russia, while Ukrainian officials downgraded diplomatic ties.

Tehran has also been at odds with Western leaders over their support for protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody, accusing them of trying to “violate its sovereignty”.

The Kremlin is also facing a growing number of critics at home as its troops suffer more defeats in Ukraine.

Moscow’s army withdrew this week from the city of Kherson, the only regional capital they had captured since the invasion began in February. Putin in September claimed to have annexed the southern region “forever.”

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Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had withdrawn more than 30,000 troops across the Dnieper River without losing a single soldier, but Ukrainians described a chaotic withdrawal, with Russian troops stripping off their uniforms or drowning trying to escape.

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