Russian President Vladimir Putin met Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Kremlin on Thursday in his first face-to-face talks since the start of a special military operation in eastern Ukraine and the two leaders are expected review the entire array of bilateral ties including energy cooperation besides exchanging views on major regional and international issues.
Khan, who arrived in Russia on Wednesday on a two-day visit - the first by a Pakistani premier in over two decades – began his engagements in Moscow by laying a wreath at ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’, hours after the Russian President ordered a special military operation in eastern Ukraine, ignoring last-minute appeals and warnings from the West.
President Putin is holding a meeting with Prime Minister Khan in the Kremlin, state-run TASS news agency reported.
“These are the first face-to-face talks of the Russian leader since the start of a special military operation to protect Donbass,” the agency said.
Earlier, the Prime Minister's Focal Person on Digital Media, Dr Arslan Khalid, said that his visit to Russia "continues as per plan", dismissing reports in a section of media that Khan has cut short his visit to Moscow in the wake of the latest developments.
The meeting between Khan and Putin to discuss issues including economic cooperation came hours after US President Joe Biden and other Western governments imposed tough economic sanctions on Russia for sending its military into parts of eastern Ukraine.
Khan was expected to push for the construction of a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies, the Pakistani media reported.
In Washington, Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price said that the US has communicated its position to Islamabad on Russia's "renewed invasion" of Ukraine and it was the "responsibility" of every country to voice objection to Putin's actions.
"Well, we’re certainly aware of the trip," Price said. "We've 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.”
"We believe it's the responsibility of every responsible country around the world to voice concern, to voice objection to what Putin appears to have in mind for Ukraine," he said in response to a question on Wednesday.
In an interview to Russia's state-run RT television network ahead of his trip, Khan, 69, had voiced concern about the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of new sanctions and their impact on Islamabad's growing cooperation with Moscow.
Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, is the first Pakistani premier to visit Russia in 23 years after former premier Nawaz Sharif travelled to Moscow in 1999.
Pakistan's ties with Russia have moved past the bitter Cold War hostilities in recent years and the chill in the relations between Pakistan and the US has further pushed the country towards Russia and China.
The two countries are not just exploring options to deepen economic ties, but Russia is also keen to sell arms to Pakistan, something it avoided in the past because of India’s opposition.
The two countries have already been holding regular joint military exercises since 2016 in another sign of deepening ties between Moscow and Islamabad. Besides, the two countries also share the same view on key regional and international issues including Afghanistan.