Pakistan PM reaches Moscow amid invasion: ‘What a time I have come, so much excitement’
Imran Khan faces potential embarrassment over visit as US reacts harshlyMaroosha Muzaffar
Thursday 24 February 2022 14:43
Putin welcomes Pakistani PM Imran Khan for talks during official Moscow visit
Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan defied Washington and many international observers by meeting with Vladimir Putin on the same day the Russian president ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state media broadcast images of Mr Khan and Mr Putin shaking hands and sitting down together in Moscow, hours after the latter gave a televised address effectively declaring war on Russia’s neighbour to the west.
Mr Khan arrived in Moscow late on Wednesday, going ahead with a planned trip on the eve of war in Europe to the surprise of some analysts.
And he ran into potential embarrassment almost immediately. The prime minister was heard in a video clip telling Russian officials upon arrival that it was a time of “so much excitement”.
“What a time I have come... so much excitement,” Mr Khan can be heard saying in the clip shared on social media.
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The US had reacted angrily to the news of Mr Khan’s visit even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, saying that the onus was on every “responsible” country to voice objection to Mr Putin’s actions.
Ned Price, the US state department spokesperson, said on Wednesday: “We believe it’s a responsibility of every responsible country around the world to voice concern, to voice objection, to what Putin appears to have in mind for Ukraine.”
Mr Price also pointed out that the US had “communicated to Pakistan our position regarding Russia’s further renewed invasion of Ukraine and we have briefed them on our efforts to pursue diplomacy over war.”
Mr Khan’s trip was the first by a Pakistani prime minister to Moscow in 20 years, and had been billed as an opportunity to talk about economic cooperation and his country’s energy needs.
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“Islamabad’s best hope for PM Khan’s Russia visit is that there are limited public aspects to the programme, that Khan doesn’t make any gaffes and say the U word in any public remarks, and that Khan and his delegation can get out as quickly and quietly as possible,” tweeted Michael Kugelman, Asia Programme deputy director at Wilson Centre.
Russian president Vladimir Putin had, on Thursday morning, announced the start of what he called a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine.
Soon after the announcement, several reports started coming in of gunshots and explosions in at least five places in Ukraine and near the Russian border. These include Kiev, Kramatorsk, Odess, Kharkhov, Berdyansk and near the Boryspil airport.
This map shows major cities in Ukraine as well as Moscow-backed separatist regions. As of early this week, rebels held only parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions highlighted
US president Joe Biden said in a statement that “the prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces.”
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
He also said that he will be “monitoring the situation from the White House this evening and will continue to get regular updates from my national security team”.
Mr Biden is scheduled to meet G7 counterparts in the morning and “then speak to the American people to announce the further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security”.