As tension persists over the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to visit Russia on February 23-24, the official Russian media has reported, making this the first visit by a Pakistani premier to Moscow in 23 years. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that preparations for Khan’s visit were underway, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Sunday, though there has been no official announcement regarding the visit from either Russia or Pakistan.
The two nations are expected to strike major deals during the trip, including a discussion on Russian investment to build a USD 2 billion gas pipeline, Pakistani media reported last week.
In a related development, India on Sunday urgently asked family members of Indian Embassy officials in Ukraine, as well as students and citizens whose stay is not essential, to temporarily leave the eastern European nation amid rising tensions. This is the second such advisory in a week, and is more strongly worded than the previous one, citing “high levels” of tension and uncertainty.
Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine conflict remained at knife-edge on Sunday, as Russia went back on its earlier pledge to pull out tens of thousands of its troops from Ukraine’s northern border. As residents of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv (Kiev) staged mass public prayers for peace in cathedrals, political leaders in the Unites States warned that Russia’s decision to not withdraw troops takes the country another step closer to what they described as the “planned invasion” of Ukraine.
The US has also warned the United Nations that Russia has prepared lists of Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps” in the event of an invasion, according to a letter sent to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and obtained by global news agency AFP. The letter states that the United States is “deeply concerned” and warns of a potential “human rights catastrophe”, adding that the US has “credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation”.
AFP reports that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday welcomed a French initiative for a summit between US and Russian presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, saying Kyiv hoped it would result in Moscow pulling back its troops. “We welcome this initiative. We believe that every effort aimed a diplomatic solution is worth trying,” Kuleba said ahead of a meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels. “We hope that the two presidents will walk out from the room with an agreement about Russia withdrawing its forces from Ukraine.”