On May 15, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted talks in Sochi with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who was in Russia for a working visit. Following their consultations, the President of Russia and the Federal President of Austria held a joint news conference. During the press conference, both leaders stressed their disapproval of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.
"From the European point of view, the fact that, after pulling out of the JCPOA, the US imposed new sanctions on Iran might be considered as particularly provocative," Van der Bellen said. "Generally, it is a US decision, but at the same time they said that all the European firms that continue their trade with Iran might be punished … with 'the seizure of assets in the US'."
Commenting on the Iran's 60-day ultimatum to the EU (Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that if an agreement is not reached within 60 days, Tehran will no longer abide by the JCPOA's enrichment limit of 3.67%, and it will resume building the Arak heavy water reactor according to pre-JCPOA construction plans), Putin said: "The US partners chose to withdraw from this treaty. We deplore the things that are happening now. I have repeatedly mentioned this in my conversations with our Iranian partners that, in my opinion, it would be better for Iran to remain a party to this treaty despite everything. I am about to say a non-diplomatic thing that may not sit well with the ears of our European friends. The Americans are out, the treaty is falling apart, and the European countries are unable to do anything to save it and are unable to actually work with Iran in order to compensate for the economic losses. However, should Iran ever take the first step in response and declare that it is pulling out from somewhere, the next day everyone will forget that the United States initiated the end of the treaty, and the blame for everything will be laid on Iran. International public opinion will purposefully drift in this direction. I have told the Iranians this so many times. Frankly, I do not see how withdrawing from the treaty will benefit them. I am now saying it freely and openly, because I have told them this many times during our talks. Let us see what happens next."
In response to a question on what Russia can do to salvage the JCPOA treaty, Putin bluntly replied: "Russia is not a firefighting rescue crew. We cannot save things that are not fully under our control. We have played our part, and we are ready to continue to play the same positive role, but it does not depend solely on us. It depends on all our partners and all the parties, including the United States, the European countries and Iran."
In an article, titled "Principles", Russian blogger E-Murid explained that Russia cannot do anything to help Iran. He wrote that the US was the only guarantor of the deal, while the other members of the agreement, Russia included, were and remained purely "furniture", i.e. nonessential actors.
El Murid also added that Russia's relationship with Iran is only situational and Putin will nor "get up" or "stand up" for Teheran's interests. The Russian blogger concluded stating that Iran is not Russia's ally, but merely a Kremlin bargaining chip.
Below is El Murid's article:
The Federal President of the Republic of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
"The US sanctions against Iran have finally come into force today…
"The Iranians announced withdrawal from the 'nuclear deal' in response to the imposed sanctions. Europe, as one of this agreement's guarantors, expressed its dissatisfaction with the United States. The President of Austria, who arrived to Moscow on May 15 and had been essentially delegated by the European Union in order to clarify the Russian final position, termed the US actions a provocation.
"Putin responded that Russia cannot save everyone, thus it was Iran's business and responsibility whether to stay or quit the deal. Russia, despite being an official guarantor of the deal, washes its hands [of it]. The Austrian returns back home emptyhanded.
"Yet, nothing actually depends on Putin in this situation. Literally nothing. The US was and remains the real guarantor of the deal. All the rest they invited for ornamental purposes. What position does an ornament take? No, it simply remains where one puts it. In this sense neither Putin nor the Europeans can do anything, thus they will have to accept the situation as it is.
"Formally, Russia is one of Iran's allies, in any case at least concerning the intervention in Syria. Yet, this alliance is extremely ad hoc, and therefore Iran has never had any illusions about this relationship. Indeed, the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] itself always treated Putin nastily and were not particularly shy about it. They took their time in fulfilling their obligations towards him- for example, by simply refusing the use of their airfields for the landing and refueling of Russian planes.
"So the alliance of the two authoritarian aggressive regimes is only in the heads of Putin's rabid fans, affected by militaristic psychosis. These supporters are few in number, yet they are, as usual, aggressive and sought after by the Federal propaganda. [...]
"Putin will not 'get up and stick up' for Iran. He simply lacks the resources to do so. That is exactly what was told to the Austrian colleague. It is unlikely that Europeans had any illusions about this, but they just had to go through the entire protocol of the meeting..
"Ironically, exactly five years ago, exactly the same messenger from Europe - the President of Switzerland - came to Russia almost for the same issue: the question of Russia's support for the insurgent Donbass. On that occasion, Putin put on a show: he spread his arms and urged Donbass not to hold a plebiscite on May 11 [regarding the independence from Ukraine]. Nothing changed: the criminal code of conduct does not suppose having any principles like protecting allies. The boys respect only force and money. All the rest is negotiable."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8067, Russian Expert Kortunov On The JCPOA: Russia Can Help Iran At The Political Level, But It Cannot Replace Europe As A Driver Of Iran's Economic Development, May 16, 2019.
 Tass.com, May 15, 2019.
 Kremlin.ru, May 15, 2019.
 El-murid.livejournal.com, May 15, 2019