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Pakistan’s Imran Khan Heads to Russia Amid Ukraine Invasion Fears

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Pakistan’s Imran Khan Heads to Russia Amid Ukraine Invasion Fears

The crisis in Ukraine threatens to overshadow the first trip to Russia by a Pakistani prime minister in 23 years.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan Heads to Russia Amid Ukraine Invasion Fears

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan at an expanded meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Heads of State Council, June 13, 2019.

Credit: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

Pakistan’s prime minister will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, authorities said Tuesday, as the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine seemed imminent.

A statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Prime Minister Imran Khan and a high-level delegation will arrive in Russia on Wednesday for a two-day official visit. He will be the first Pakistani prime minister to make the trip since 1999.

“Pakistan and Russia enjoy friendly relations marked by mutual respect, trust and convergence of views on a range of international and regional issues,” the statement said. It added that Putin and Khan “will review the entire array of bilateral relations including energy cooperation,” as well as unnamed regional and international issues.

The summit comes as much of the West aligns against Putin amid increasing fears of a war that could cause massive casualties, energy shortages on the continent and chaos around the world.

Western leaders said Tuesday that Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized their independence – but some indicated it was not yet a long-feared, full-fledged invasion.

The Foreign Ministry statement said Pakistan and Russia will exchange views on major regional and international issues, including Islamophobia and the situation in Afghanistan. The statement made no mention of the Ukraine crisis. But Khan has opposed any military intervention, saying all issues can be resolved through talks and negotiations.

Khan, in an interview with Russia’s state-owned television network RT, expressed hope for a resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through peaceful means. “I am hoping that this Ukrainian crisis is resolved peacefully,” he said in the interview released by the outlet on Tuesday. He said he was not a believer in military conflict.

Khan gave the interview in the capital of Islamabad ahead of his visit to Moscow.

Pakistan has good relations with Ukraine, which is an exporter of wheat to Islamabad.

During the Cold War, Pakistan – a U.S. ally – was on poor terms with the Soviet Union, especially following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But in recent years, Pakistan and Russia have been pursuing closer ties, marked by high-level visits and increased arms sales. Notably, both Pakistan and Russia share close ties with China.

Moscow’s traditional friendship with India has limited its outreach to Pakistan in the past, but Putin is expected to pay his first visit to Pakistan sometime later this year.