February 22, 2022
ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan will embark on a two-day visit to Russia from February 23 on the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, the Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement on Monday.
This will be the first visit by a top Pakistani leader to Moscow after former president Asif Ali Zardari’s three-day trip in 2011 on the invitation of then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.
“The prime minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including members of the cabinet. The bilateral summit will be the highlight of the visit,” the statement said.
The FO also highlighted that the two countries enjoyed friendly relations “marked by mutual respect, trust and convergence of views on a range of international and regional issues”.
“During the summit, the two leaders will review the entire array of bilateral relations, including energy cooperation. They will also have [a] wide-ranging exchange of views on major regional and international issues, including Islamophobia and [the] situation in Afghanistan,” the statement added.
The premier’s visit comes at a time when tensions in the region are high with the United States and European powers fearing that Russia may invade bordering Ukraine as shelling on the front line separating Kyiv’s forces from Moscow-backed separatists spiked.
The bombardments have sent Ukrainians fleeing to cellars and other shelters, while some civilians have been evacuated.
In its own statement, the White House warned that it was still ready “to impose swift and severe consequences” should Russia invade.
“And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon,” US press secretary Jen Psaki said.
The FO said that PM Imran’s visit would contribute to deepening the multi-faceted Pakistan-Russia bilateral relationship and enhancement of mutual cooperation in diverse fields.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood had revealed that the prime minister would visit Russia in February but had not provided an exact date.
In January, PM Imran had held a telephonic conversation with Putin, during which both leaders had invited each other to visit their countries.
During the phone call, the premier also thanked the Russian leader for his “emphatic” statement against insulting Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
“He is the first Western leader to show empathy and sensitivity to Muslim sentiment for their beloved Prophet (PBUH),” the prime minister had said.