Russia (inits previous incarnation as the USSR) used to have a pretty free hand here in the Middle East, with both Egypt and Syria as client states. In fact, when, in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Israel gained the upper hand against Egypt and Syria, the USSR threatened to intervene unless Israel stopped fighting. Now, Russia has only one lone outpost in the ME, and that too is tottering. So it's easy to understand Putin's frustration.
Egypt says verdict in Al-Jazeera case expected Saturday (AP)