Putin arrives in Iran on one of his first trips since Ukraine invasion

(CNN)– Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran on Tuesday for his first international trip beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union since he launched his invasion of Ukraine, effectively severing ties with the West.

Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran and was scheduled to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday, according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

Putin took part in a welcoming ceremony after landing in Tehran, Iran on Tuesday.

“I am very happy to be on hospitable Iranian soil… We can boast record numbers in terms of trade growth,” Putin said in a bilateral meeting with Raisi.

“We are strengthening our international security cooperation, contributing significantly to the solution of the Syrian conflict.”

Raisi also praised the “important” commitment to security cooperation between the two countries.

“There has been a good experience of the two countries in the fight against terrorism, which I think has brought security to the region,” he said.

Russia’s relationship with Iran has put Western officials on alert as it prepares to step up ground offensives in eastern Ukraine following its troops’ seizure of the Luhansk region.

Newly declassified US intelligence services indicate that Iran is expected to supply Russia with “hundreds” of drones, including weapons-capable drones, for use in the Ukraine war, and that Iran is preparing to begin training forces. instructions on how to operate them as soon as the end of July, according to White House officials.

“The fact that Russia is turning to Iran for help says a lot about the degree to which both nations, by their actions in different parts of the world, have been increasingly isolated by the international community,” he told CNN last week. the strategic communications coordinator of the National Security Council, John Kirby.

Putin’s trip to Iran will also see him meet face-to-face with Erdogan, the leader of NATO member Turkey, and comes after he repeated his threat to block Sweden and Finland from joining the alliance, after have conditionally agreed to green-light his candidacy in June.

“I would like to remind you once again that we will freeze the process if you do not take the necessary steps to fulfill our conditions,” Erdogan said Monday after a cabinet meeting. Erdogan raised his opposition to the enlargement at a NATO summit last month, a major diplomatic breakthrough that dealt a blow to Putin.

Putin and Erdogan will discuss the issue of exporting grain from Ukrainian ports, the Kremlin reported ahead of the trip, according to state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS. The visit comes amid Ukrainian claims that more than 20 million tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine due to the Russian blockade of several Black Sea ports.

“The work is very active. You know that on July 13 the first quadripartite meeting on grain was held in Istanbul with the participation of representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN. We are ready to continue working on this path, this work it will continue,” Yury Ushakov, an adviser to President Putin, told a briefing cited by RIA.

Turkey, mediator between Russia and Ukraine for grain release 1:08

Khamenei warns Erdogan about military campaign in Syria

Before the summit, Khamenei warned Erdogan not to launch a military operation in northern Syria, state news agency IRNA also reported.

“A military attack in northern Syria would be detrimental to Turkey and would benefit the terrorists,” Khamenei reportedly told Erdogan in Tehran.

His warning came amid threats from Erdogan to launch a new military offensive aimed at pushing back Syrian Kurdish fighters belonging to the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

“This move would definitely harm Syria, Turkey and the region and will not create the political action expected by the Syrians,” Khamenei warned.

“The Syrian issue must be resolved through negotiations and Iran, Turkey, Syria and Russia will hold discussions on this issue,” he added.

— CNN’s Mostafa Salem, Abdul Nasir, Ramin Mostaghim and Adam Pourahmadi contributed to this report.