Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Egypt this week, and like any good guest he didn't come empty-handed. After arriving in Cairo airport on Monday, the Russian leader cracked open a metallic case to produce an AK-47 assault rifle, which he presented to Egypt's beaming President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
On Twitter, observers were quick to comment on the exchange between the Putin and el-Sisi:
Putin also gave el-Sisi a Kalashnikov last night. El-Sisi looks like he's meeting his newborn child. pic.twitter.com/VI5M8XoFUF
— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) February 10, 2015
Putin's present is perhaps a nod to the multibillion-dollar arms deal that Russia and Egypt are reportedly seeking to ink, or the Soviet history of military aid to the country, but the possible symbolism has lent the gift special significance.
Since the overthrow of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government by the army in 2013, mass jailing and death sentences of Brotherhood supporters, as well as the arrest of journalists, have been commonplace in Egypt. The most notorious event was the August 2013 Rabaa massacre, in which security forces used brutal force to clear out a protest camp, killing an estimated 817 people.
In a heated interview with Germany's Der Spiegel, published on Monday, el-Sisi defended his security measures and brushed aside mentions of the Rabaa massacre, saying of the crackdown: "Had the army not intervened, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, would have died."
Putin generously gives el-Sisi world's cheapest and least accurate assault rifle. pic.twitter.com/GjwQk5ECbd
— Omar Robert Hamilton (@ORHamilton) February 10, 2015
As relations between the U.S. and Egypt have cooled in recent months, Cairo has turn towards Moscow, and Putin and el-Sisi are reportedly on good terms.
Putin is in the Egyptian capital on a two-day jaunt before he attends the contentious peace talks set for Wednesday in Ukraine, a country with arguably enough Russian weapons in it already.