The current and former Iranian ambassadors to Russia have thrown their weight behind deeper ties with Moscow ahead of a planned visit to the country by President Ebrahim Raisi, with one claiming Iranians supported the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin.
Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi, whose mission in Moscow ran from 2009 to 2013, used an interview with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s Ofogh TV channel on Tuesday to lament that the Central Bank of Iran was often behind on payments owed to Russia.
The situation could be resolved, he said, by increasing banking cooperation between the two countries – perhaps even setting up a shared bank to get around sanctions.
Hot on the heels of the hugely controversial Iran-China deal reaching “implementation phase” in Iran, Sajjadi also used the interview to lend his support to a proposed, as-yet unexplained 20-year agreement with Moscow. MPs have said such a document is in the drafting stage now and nothing has been finalized.
The comments came on the eve of a trip to Moscow on Wednesday by President Ebrahim Raisi. State media reported that Raisi would be meeting Vladimir Putin and addressing MPs at the State Duma as part of a bid to “expand and deepen ties” between the two states.
In a similar bid to dispel negative PR in the run-up to the visit, Iran’s serving ambassador to Moscow, Kazem Jalali, claimed Iranian citizens had no objection to Vladimir Putin’s rule.
In an interview with Iran newspaper, Jalali said: "The British and American psychological propaganda machine wants to promote hatred of Russia and pretend that Russians are bad, dangerous, unreliable and unpredictable, by painting an evil picture of Russians.
"By likening modern Russia to the negative, entrenched perceptions of the historical behavior of Tsarist Russia, as well as its hegemonic tendencies under communist rule, some people [try to] destroy any consolidation of relations between Iran and present-day Russia."
He went on to state: “Iranians curse the Russians of the Tsarist era.” Putin, he said, had brought about a "new Russia" after the collapse of the Soviet Union that Iranian citizens took a different view of.
The comments come despite the fact that anti-Kremlin chants have been heard at Iranian mass demonstrations for years now. “Death to Russia” and “Russian Embassy, spy nest” were both common refrains during the 2009 Green Movement protests.
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