Vladimir Putin expresses ‘deep condolences’ to Iran’s supreme leader over death of president

Search operation following the crash of Raisi’s helicopter, 20 May 2024. Photo: Iranian Red Crescent Society / Reuters / Scanpix

Search operation following the crash of Raisi’s helicopter, 20 May 2024. Photo: Iranian Red Crescent Society / Reuters / Scanpix

Vladimir Putin has sent a telegram to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to express his “deep condolences” over the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who were both killed on Sunday after a helicopter they were flying on crashed in poor weather in the north of the country.

In his telegram, Putin called Raisi “an outstanding politician whose entire life was dedicated to serving his country” and “a true friend of Russia”. He wished the entire Iranian people “fortitude in the face of such a grave and irreparable loss”.

Putin also said that Raisi, under whose presidency Tehran and Moscow enjoyed an ever closer relationship, not least since Iran began supplying Russia with Shahed drones for use in its war in Ukraine, “made an invaluable personal contribution to the development of neighbourly relations between our countries”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also expressed his condolences to the Iranian people on Monday, saying Russians would “always remember these outstanding political figures as true patriots of the Islamic Republic, who firmly defended the interests of their state and gave their lives in selfless service to the Motherland”.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko also issued a statement on the death of two of Iran’s most senior politicians, saying that Raisi would “go down in history as a wise leader who devoted his entire life to serving the Iranian people”.

Raisi had been travelling in a convoy of three helicopters in the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan when the one carrying him lost contact with the other two approximately 30 minutes after takeoff. He had been returning from a visit to inaugurate a new dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, AP news reported.

After initial reports of the helicopter making a “hard landing” in poor weather and rescue workers being unable to reach the site, the deaths were only confirmed on Monday morning by Iranian news agency Mehr.

Also on board were Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the Imam of Friday Prayer in Tabriz, Malek Rahmati, the governor-general of East Azerbaijan province, the helicopter crew and one bodyguard, bringing the death toll to nine. There were no survivors.

According to the Iranian constitution, the First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will now become the country’s acting president.

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