Putin makes first trip abroad since international arrest warrant issued over Ukraine invasion

Putin is later set to travel to China for a forum on Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative

Shweta Sharma
Friday 13 October 2023 09:29 BST
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Related video: China defence minister Li Shangfu hails 'strong' ties in meeting with Putin in Russia

Russian president Vladimir Putin is visiting Kyrgyzstan for his first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him over war crimes in Ukraine.

Mr Putin arrived in the central Asian nation on Thursday for a two-day state visit for bilateral meetings and a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of Russia’s Kant military airbase outside Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital.

The Kremlin chief has rarely taken trips abroad since he launched what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine in early 2022 and is not known to have stepped out of Russia since the ICC warrant was issued.

The ICC issued a warrant in March on charges of overseeing the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine.

Russia, which does not recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction, has rejected the warrant as “illegal” and politically motivated.

But its issuing has complicated Mr Putin’s plans for international travel, seeing him miss a key summit of the Brics group of developing nations in South Africa – which is an ICC member.

Mr Putin is due to travel to China next week for the third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

Neither Kyrgyzstan nor China are members of the ICC, which was established to prosecute war crimes.

During his visit to Bishkek, Mr Putin promised to continue to deliver modern weapons to its military base in Kyrgyzstan.

Chair of the Cabinet of Ministers of Kyrgyzstan Akylbek Zhaparov walking with Russia's President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival at the Manas International Airport in Bishkek
Chair of the Cabinet of Ministers of Kyrgyzstan Akylbek Zhaparov walking with Russia's President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival at the Manas International Airport in Bishkek (CABINET OF MINISTERS OF KYRGYZST)

“For my part, I would like to offer assurances that the Russian leadership will continue to pay close attention to the issues of providing the air base with advanced types of weapons, modern technology and equipment,” said Mr Putin.

"This military outpost significantly contributes to boosting Kyrgyzstan’s defensive power and ensuring security and stability in the whole region of Central Asia," he added.

The leader highlighted double-digit growth in Russia and Kyrgyz trade, which analysts suggest is due to violation of Western sanctions by Russian businesses.

He reiterated Russia’s importance as a strong trade partner for Kyrgyzstan.

“Our country is the main supplier of oil products to Kyrgyzstan, we fully supply Kyrgyz consumers with gasoline (petrol) and diesel,” Mr Putin told a briefing.

“Russia is one of the leading trade partners of Kyrgyzstan. Our trade turnover grew 37 per cent last year to a record of nearly $3.5bn. In the first half of this year it grew a further 17.9 per cent,” he added.

The Russian president is expected to hold a number of bilateral meetings including with Kyrgyz president Sadyr Japarov and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, and conclude with his attendance at a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a grouping of former Soviet nations.

Moscow’s relationships with other nations in a region it has historically considered its sphere of influence have faced challenges due to Western sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the situation in Ukraine.

Last week, the central bank of Kyrgyzstan called upon domestic banks to enhance their monitoring and enforcement measures to ensure better adherence to Western sanctions targeting Moscow.

It comes after the US imposed sanctions on four Kyrgyz companies in July for re-exporting electronics components and other technology to Russia.

Additional reporting by agencies

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