Vladimir Putin advocated Thursday in Kyrgyzstan a strengthening of military ties with one of its rare allies, for his first trip to Kyrgyzstan. abroad since the arrest warrant was issued. against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for "deportation" of Ukrainian children.
The Russian president, who has given up attending several international summits because of this arrest warrant, is not at risk of being arrested during this two-day trip to Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian country close to Moscow which does not has not ratified the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the Court.
Arriving in the early morning in Bishkek, he spoke with his counterpart Sadyr Japarov, praising the links between the two countries.
“Our relations are developing with great success,” he said, emphasizing the increase in trade, while Kyrgyzstan is accused of helping Russia to circumvent Western sanctions, which he denies.
The visit also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Russian Kant military base in Kyrgyzstan. The Russian leader called for further deepening security cooperation.
According to him, Kant “contributes significantly to stability and security in the region.”
For Mr. Japarov, the base is a “deterrent factor for the terrorist threat” in Central Asia, a region neighboring Afghanistan which in the past has had to fight against jihadist groups.
Mr. Putin is also due to meet other leaders of countries from the former USSR on Thursday and Friday, an event that has become rare since his invasion of Ukraine.
He will have a meeting on Thursday with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliev, their first face-to-face since Baku's victory in Nagorno-Karabakh. But Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, whose relations with Moscow have become strained, will be absent.
– Summit Friday –
The Russian president will also participate in a country summit on Friday of the former USSR, in the presence of its main ally, the Belarusian Alexander Lukashenko, but also of leaders more critical of the invasion of Ukraine, such as the Kazakh Kassym-Jomart Tokaïev and the Uzbek Chavkat Mirzioïev.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony in Bishkek, October 12, 2023 in Kyrgyzstan © AFP – VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO
Vladimir Putin is under a mandate of arrest by the ICC since March for his role in the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. Moscow denounced this decision of international justice.
But Mr. Putin has since been careful to avoid trips abroad, skipping the BRICS summit in South Africa in August, then the G20 summit in India in September.
The Russian president explained at the beginning of October that he was avoiding summits so as not to “cause problems” for the organizers.
“If I come, there will be political spectacles, political attacks”, he justified himself, estimating that there was “enough to do at home” anyway.
Vladimir Putin, whom the West is trying to make a pariah, is also expected in China, at the invitation of his ally Xi Jinping, to participate in an international economic forum. The trip is expected to take place next week.
This will be his first trip to this country, a close partner, since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
– Circumvention of sanctions –
Russian President Vadimir Putin (l) upon his arrival at Bishkek airport, October 12, 2023 in Kyrgyzstan © Cabinet of Ministries of Kyrgyzstan – Ergesh ZHUSUBALIEV
If Mr. Putin had already traveled little since the Covid-19 pandemic, and even less since the offensive in Ukraine, he had visited several Central Asian countries in 2022.
The former Soviet republics of Central Asia remain among Moscow's closest partners, even if their relations have been strained since the start of the Russian assault on Ukraine.
Their leaders States committed at the end of September in Berlin to make “additional efforts” to prevent Russia from circumventing sanctions via their countries, a sign of their desire to deepen their relations with the West.
In the Caucasus , it is with Armenia that relations have become strained, since Azerbaijan's military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Yerevan recently decided to join the ICC and displayed its rapprochement with the Europeans.
However, economic, military and cultural ties between Russia and the former Soviet republics remain strong.
Mr. Putin thus kicked off deliveries of Russian gas to Uzbekistan via Kazakhstan last week, a source of income while the sector is hit by sanctions.
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