ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan returned to Pakistan on Friday after a two-day visit to Russia in which he urged “dialogue and diplomacy” to resolve Russia’s “disputes” with Ukraine, saying he regretted that a military conflict could not be averted between the two neighboring countries.
Khan’s statement came after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
His visit to Moscow, the first by a Pakistani prime minister since 1999, comes as Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.
“The Prime Minister regretted the latest situation between Russia and Ukraine and said that Pakistan had hoped diplomacy could avert a military conflict,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “The Prime Minister stressed that conflict was not in anyone’s interest, and that the developing countries were always hit the hardest economically in case of conflict. He underlined Pakistan’s belief that disputes should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.”
Khan and Putin also discussed an estimated $2.5 billion natural gas pipeline to be built in Pakistan in collaboration with Russian companies.
The Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project (PSGP), formerly known as North South Gas Pipeline, is a flagship project signed by Islamabad and Moscow in 2015 to carry imported Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast to power plants in the northeastern province of Punjab.
“The Prime Minister reaffirmed the importance of Pakistan-Stream Gas Pipeline as a flagship economic project between Pakistan and Russia and also discussed cooperation on prospective energy-related projects. The Prime Minister underscored Pakistan’s commitment to forge a long-term, multidimensional relationship with Russia,” the PMO statement said.
The statement comes as missiles rained down on Ukrainian targets and Kyiv reported columns of troops pouring across the borders with Russia and Belarus stretching from the north and east, and landing on the coasts from the Black Sea in the southwest and Azov Sea in the southeast.
A picture was emerging of fierce fighting across multiple fronts with Russian forces capturing the Chernobyl former nuclear power plant on the route between Belarus and Kyiv, a Ukrainian presidential adviser told media.
Ukrainian forces downed an aircraft over Kyiv, which then crashed into a residential building, said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister. A missile hit a Ukrainian border post in the southeast, killing and wounding some guards, the border service said.
Putin said his aim was to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. He said any hindrance would be met by “such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”
US President Joe Biden said Putin’s action was about naked aggression. He unveiled new sanctions on its banks and wealthy elite and export restrictions.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he held a “frank, direct and quick” phone call with Putin on Thursday to ask him to stop military operations because Zelenskiy had asked him to.
Britain, Canada, the EU, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and others unveiled sanctions against Russia, targeting banks, military exports and members of Putin’s inner circle.
In an interview ahead of his trip to Russia, Khan had expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of new sanctions and their effect on Islamabad’s budding cooperation with Moscow.
It is unclear how the latest sanctions will affect the project, which is important for Pakistan — particularly the power sector — as the country’s dependence on imported LNG grows in the face of dwindling indigenous gas supplies.
The pipeline project has already suffered delays because of earlier sanctions.
“This North-South pipeline suffered, one of the reasons...was the companies we were negotiating with, turned out that US had applied sanctions on them,” Khan told Russia Today this week. “So, the problem was to get a company that wasn’t sanctioned.”