Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks Tuesday with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, signaling closer links between the two countries, while also meeting later with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an effort to resume grain exports from war-torn Ukraine.
It was the Kremlin leader's first trip outside the former Soviet Union since Moscow's February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“The contact with Khamenei is very important," Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign policy adviser, told reporters in Moscow. "A trusting dialogue has developed between them on the most important issues on the bilateral and international agenda."
"On most issues, our positions are close or identical,” Ushakov said.
As Moscow faces ongoing Western economic sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is trying to strengthen strategic ties with Iran, China and India.
Iran, also facing Western economic sanctions and ongoing disputes with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program, expressed hope for closer ties with Russia.
"Both our countries have good experience in countering terrorism, and this has provided much security to our region," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said after meeting with Putin. "I hope your visit to Iran will increase cooperation between our two independent countries."
Putin’s bilateral talks with Erdogan focused on a plan to get Ukrainian grain exports moving again.
Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations are expected to sign a deal later this week aimed at resuming grain shipments from Ukraine across the Black Sea.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Monday there has been incremental progress in the negotiations among Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, “but nothing to announce at this stage.” He said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is ready to travel to Istanbul if need be to close a deal.
Guterres spoke on the phone Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the negotiations, according to the United Nations.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called Tuesday for a price cap on Russian oil exports while urging countries to unite in opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Yellen said, “Economic integration has been weaponized by Russia,” adding that Moscow threatens to spark a global food crisis by blocking Ukrainian ports.
“All responsible countries must unite in opposition to this war and work together to end it swiftly,” Yellen said. “And that’s why the United States and other responsible allies and partners are seeking to reduce Russia’s revenue to wage its war” while easing the impact on global energy markets.
Ukraine’s military said Tuesday that Russian attacks continued in multiple parts of the country, including shelling in Sumy, blasts in Mykolaiv and a missile strike in Odesa.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia “may still make further territorial gains” as it pursues its stated goal of taking control of all of Donetsk province in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. But the ministry said in its daily assessment that Russia’s “rate of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganization and refit” of its forces.
Ukraine’s parliament voted Tuesday to dismiss the country’s top security chief, Ivan Bakanov, and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, two days after Zelenskyy suspended the officials, citing what he said were hundreds of cases of alleged treason and collaboration with Russia, involving workers within the security service and prosecutor general’s office.
In Washington, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska was meeting with U.S. first lady Jill Biden at the White House, a day after meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
A statement released by the State Department Monday night said, “Secretary Blinken commended First Lady Zelenska’s work to help Ukrainians impacted by the war.”
Blinken “reiterated that the United States will continue to provide assistance to help Ukraine respond to the significant economic and humanitarian challenges it faces, including supporting the first lady’s mental health initiative for citizens affected by the war,” the statement said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken assured Zelenska of U.S. support of Ukraine and commended the first lady for her work helping civilians traumatized by the war.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.