It’s not unusual for world leaders to present their host with a gift when they visit a foreign country. But an assault weapon? Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi a Kalashnikov AK-47 shortly after arriving in Cairo Monday evening for talks. The weapon, a longtime favorite of rebel groups across the world, was nestled in a gun case.
NPR’s Cairo bureau chief, Leila Fadel, says Putin received a warm welcome on his arrival Monday night, as he walked down a red carpet flanked by soldiers in full military dress. Cairo’s streets are festooned with Russian flags and posters of Putin. The two men attended the opera and had dinner at a high-end restaurant that overlooks the city.
The two leaders agreed that Russia would help build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant. But NPR’s Fadel says other than that, the visit is mostly symbolic. It’s seen as an effort by both Russia and Egypt to show they are not beholden to the U.S. or other western nations. Egypt has been heavily criticized for human rights abuses, and Russia is under western sanctions for its support of separatists in Ukraine.
Putin is due to arrive in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday for talks with the leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany. The talks are part of a renewed peace initiative, spearheaded by France and Germany, to try to quell the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Fighting in that region has intensified ahead of the talks.