MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin (pix) arrived in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday on his first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest in March, reported German news agency (dpa).
During his two-day trip to the Central Asian nation, an ex-Soviet republic with strong ties to Moscow, Putin is set to meet his authoritarian counterpart Sadyr Zhaparov and attend a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional bloc formed following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Putin, 71, has rarely left Russia since launching his all-out war on Ukraine in February 2022. This is his first foreign visit this year.
The ICC accuses Putin of being responsible for the abduction and deportation of children and minors from Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia. Moscow refers to the incidents as evacuations.
Kyrgyzstan is not a member of the ICC and, given its friendly relations with the Kremlin, Putin does not face arrest.
The aim of Putin’s visit is seen as shoring up Russia’s influence in the Central Asia as other powers – including China, the United States and the European Union – seek to more substantially engage with the region that sits at the strategic crossroads between Europe and Asia.
Experts contend that Russia had lost influence in regions such as Central Asia, but also in the South Caucasus, after the start of the war against Ukraine on Feb 24 last year.
The Kremlin said Putin will also attend a ceremony in Kant – about 20 kilometres east of the capital Bishkek – to mark the 20th anniversary of the Russian airbase there. –Bernama