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

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan had to end a two-day visit to Russia after the US reacted harshly to his trip amid a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine that the country instead described as a “full-scale invasion”.

Mr Khan had reached Moscow on Wednesday, but it was reported on Thursday that he would be ending his visit, the first such trip by a Pakistani prime minister in 20 years.

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 felicitating 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.

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.

“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.”

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.

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”.

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