Putin Visits Egypt in Bid to Expand Influence
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Egypt on Monday as Moscow looks to expand its reach in the Arab world’s most populous country at a time when Cairo-Washington ties remain frayed.
His two-day trip will be Putin’s first in a decade to Egypt and comes after a 2011 popular uprising that ousted ex-strongman Hosni Mubarak, who the Russian leader met in his previous visit in 2005.
Putin is a key non-Arab backer of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who faces harsh criticism from Washington for his deadly crackdown on dissent since Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the then army chief in July 2013.
Hundreds of Mursi’s supporters have been killed and thousands imprisoned in a crackdown since his ouster.
Experts say Putin’s visit is also aimed at showing that he is not isolated internationally despite the crisis in Ukraine.
Officials say Putin’s trip is intended to strengthen ties between the two countries, AFP reported.
“The leaders will pay special attention to ramping up trade and economic ties between the two countries,” the Kremlin said ahead of the visit.
Putin and Sisi are also expected to discuss Iraq, Syria and Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Commercial agreements are also on the agenda, including a likely deal between Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya and Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, which on Sunday ran a full-page article headlined “Putin — hero of this era”.
Russia had hosted Sisi’s predecessor Mursi during his one-year presidency despite banning the Islamist’s Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist group” in 2003.
But Russia was also one of the first countries to endorse Sisi’s presidential bid last year.