Pakistan PM Imran Khan reaches Moscow amid imminent Ukraine invasion: ‘What a time I have come, so much excitement’

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan met with the Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday despite reports that he had called short a trip to Moscow amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The US had reacted harshly to Mr Khan’s trip amid what Mr Putin announced on Thursday morning as a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine — Kiev says what is underway is a “full-scale invasion”.

Mr Khan reached Moscow on Wednesday evening in the first such trip by a Pakistani prime minister in 20 years, and amid simmering tensions in Europe.

The trip became a potential embarrassment for Mr Khan as soon as he landed in Moscow. The prime minister was heard in a video clip telling Russian officials greeting him 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 doing the rounds on social media.

The US, reacting to the news of Mr Khan’s visit, said that the onus was on every “responsible” country to voice objection to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Mr Khan’s spokesperson, Dr Arslan Khalid, later rubbished reports that he was ending his two-day Moscow visit early, and said that the trip “continues as per [the] plan” despite the unfolding conflict in Ukraine.

Ned Price, the US state department spokesperson, said on Wednesday: “We believe it’s a responsibility of every responsible country (sic) around the world to voice concern, to voice objection, to what Putin appears to have in mind for Ukraine.”

The Pakistani prime minister was supposed to be in Moscow to meet Mr Putin and talk about economic cooperation and his country’s energy needs.

This map shows major cities in Ukraine as well as Moscow-backed separatist regions

(The Independent)

“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.

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”.

Soon after Mr Putin’s announcement on Thursday morning, gunshots and explosions rang out in at least five places in Ukraine and near the Russian border. These included Kiev, Kramatorsk, Odess, Kharkhov, Berdyansk and near the Boryspil airport.

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 was scheduled to meet his G7 counterparts later on Thursday 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”.

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