Russian President Putin mourns loss of ‘true friend’ Raisi after Iranian President’s death

Putin offered condolences to the Iranian people over the passing of Raisi, whose life was “devoted to serving the Motherland.” The Russian leader hailed Raisi’s “invaluable personal contribution” to strengthening strategic ties between Moscow and Tehran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute Monday to his “true friend” and key ally Ebrahim Raisi, after the Iranian president’s sudden death at age 62 as his chopper crashed on Monday. This sent shockwaves through the Islamic Republic and across the Middle East as his foreign minister was also present in the chopper with him.

In a statement from the Kremlin, Putin offered condolences to the Iranian people over the passing of Raisi, whose life was “devoted to serving the Motherland.” The Russian leader hailed Raisi’s “invaluable personal contribution” to strengthening strategic ties between Moscow and Tehran.

“He rightfully enjoyed the high respect of his compatriots and considerable prestige abroad,” Putin said of Raisi, who died unexpectedly over the weekend from what Iranian state media called a “critical illness.”

Raisi’s death deals a major blow to Iran just over a year after he took office, while also depriving Putin of a crucial partner in the face of Western sanctions and condemnation over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As president, Raisi had doubled down on supplying Russia with Iranian drones and missiles for use on the battlefield.

The hardline conservative cleric had solidified Iran’s tilt toward Russia and China amid tensions with the West over its disputed nuclear program. His administration’s brutal crackdown on the recent anti-government protests also drew widespread international criticism.

There were no immediate details on the circumstances surrounding the 62-year-old’s death. Iranian state television aired mournful footage of Raisi’s cortege traveling across the capital amid throngs of mourners chanting religious slogans.

Under Iranian law, new presidential elections must now be held within seven weeks. That sets the stage for what could be a divisive succession battle between hardliners and reformists seeking to repair Iran’s struggling economy and repair ties with the West.

Raisi’s successor will also face the challenge of deciding whether to continue Iran’s supply of weapons to Russia which has recently drawn down stocks of aged munitions amid the war in Ukraine.

In his statement, Putin said Raisi had worked tirelessly “to bring our nations to the level of strategic partnership” through shared opposition to U.S. influence and deepening economic cooperation.

“The President of Russia gave a high assessment of Raisi’s personal qualities and expressed his readiness to continue to develop constructive bilateral relations,” the Kremlin said.

But the dynamics between Iran and Russia now appear poised for an unpredictable reset as Tehran’s political landscape lurches into turmoil. While Putin has enjoyed relative leadership stability in Moscow amid the Ukraine war, Iran now faces a gruelling interim period with widespread speculation over Raisi’s permanent successor.