President Vladimir Putin on Friday denied a United States media report that Russia is set to deliver an advanced satellite system to Iran that will vastly improve its spying capabilities.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Moscow is preparing to give Iran a Kanopus-V satellite with a high-resolution camera, allowing the Islamic republic to monitor the facilities of its adversaries across the Middle East.
Putin, who is expected to hear a range of complaints from US President Joe Biden when they meet on Wednesday in Geneva, dismissed the report as “garbage”.
“We have cooperation plans with Iran, including the military and technical cooperation,” he told NBC News in an interview ahead of the summit.
“It’s just fake news. At the very least, I don’t know anything about this kind of thing, those who are speaking about it probably will maybe know more about it. It’s just nonsense, garbage.”
Biden, who is on his first foreign tour since entering the White House, is expected to raise a slew of complaints with Putin including over election interference and hacking purportedly linked to Russia.
The Washington Post, quoting current and former US and Middle Eastern officials, said the launch of the satellite could happen within months and is the result of multiple trips to Russia by leaders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
The satellite, while not of US capabilities, could allow the monitoring of Israeli bases and the US troop presence in Iraq, the report said.
The US and its regional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of waging a proxy war in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria, a charge Tehran denies. Washington has maintained sanctions against Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the pro-West regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
The US has also accused Iran-backed armed groups of regularly launching drone attacks on its soldiers based in Iraq. Tehran has denied it was behind those attacks.
The 2015 landmark nuclear deal offered a ray of hope for peace as it capped Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief but a decision by former President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal in 2018 sparked renewed tensions between the two sides.
Tehran has since stepped up its nuclear activities long curtailed by the deal. Iran demands that the US first lift sanctions before it could rejoin the deal.
The Post reported that the satellite could be launched in Russia, although Russian trainers have assisted ground crews who could operate the satellite near a new site near the northern Iranian city of Karaj.
Details of the sale also come at a delicate time when world powers are meeting to revive the nuclear deal.
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