Russian President Vladimir Putin said that a planned visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Russia had been changed at the last minute, prompting the Kremlin chief to visit Riyadh for talks with the leader of the world’s biggest oil exporter.
Mystery surrounds Putin’s hastily arranged trip to the Middle East, on which he was escorted by Russian fighter jets, and it was not immediately clear what was so important for the Kremlin chief to make a rare trip outside Russia.
“We awaited you in Moscow,” Putin told the crown prince, known as MBS, in Riyadh with a smile.
Photo: SPA, by AFP
“I know that events forced a correction to those plans but as I have already said nothing can prevent the development of our friendly relations,” Putin said.
Putin then told MBS: “But the next meeting should be in Moscow.”
The crown prince said through a Russian translator that he was of course ready to do that.
“Then we are agreed,” Putin said.
MBS praised joint coordination between the two countries “that helped remove tensions in Middle East,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
He said that the two countries shared many interests and said they were working for the benefit of Russia, the Kingdom and the entire Middle East and wider world.
Putin’s meeting with MBS came after oil prices fell despite a pledge by OPEC+, which groups the OPEC and allies led by Russia, to further cut output.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said after the talks that cooperation would continue within OPEC+, but there were no specifics about the visit.
The Russian Ministry of Defense had earlier shown the Kremlin chief’s Ilyushin-96 aircraft flanked by Sukhoi-35S fighter jets on its flight from Russia to the United Arab Emirates, Putin’s first stop on the trip.
In other news, Russia’s upper house of parliament yesterday voted to set the date for the presidential election for March 17 next year.
The decision was passed unanimously by 162 votes in the Russian Federation Council.
“With this decision, we are effectively launching the start of the election campaign,” council chairman Valentina Matviyenko said.
She added that for the first time residents of the parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine annexed by Russia would take part in the vote.
“By choosing a head of state together, we fully share the common responsibility and common destiny of our fatherland,” Matviyenko said.
Putin has not yet officially announced his intention to run for a new six-year presidential term.
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