Pakistani prime minister to fly to Moscow to meet Putin this week

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will fly to Moscow this week to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, Islamabad confirmed on Monday – the first such trip by a Pakistani leader in two decades.

The two-day visit, starting on Wednesday, was planned before the current crisis over Ukraine.

“During the Summit meeting, the two leaders will review the entire array of bilateral relations including energy cooperation,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement, adding that Khan and Putin will also discuss issues including the situation in Afghanistan.

Relations between Pakistan and Russia were minimal for years as Islamabad sided with the United States in the Cold War and was given Major Non-NATO Ally status by Washington after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

In recent years, however, relations between the United States and Pakistan have deteriorated and there has been a thawing between Moscow and Islamabad, which has seen the planning of projects in the gas and energy fields.

In an interview published on Monday, Khan played down the timing of the visit, and any effect it would have on Pakistan’s relations with the West.

“This visit was planned well before the emergence of the current phase of Ukrainian crisis … I received the invitation from President Putin much earlier,” he told Newsweek Pakistan.