President Vladimir Putin arrived in the 'Russia-friendly' central Asian country of Tajikistan on Tuesday, for a one-day visit with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, in what marks Putin's first trip abroad since launching the Feb.24 invasion of Ukraine.
The two leaders discussed "bilateral ties, the development of cultural and economic relations, and regional and global issues, especially the situation in Afghanistan." He then went on to Turkmenistan on Wednesday to attend an important regional summit of allies.
According to Japan's NHK World, this week includes a "tour of central Asia" by the Russian leader, as he's visiting "Turkmenistan on Wednesday to attend a summit of five countries bordering the Caspian Sea, including Iran and Azerbaijan. The region is said to be rich in natural resources."
During the visit to the country's capital of Ashgabat, Putin is further meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to discuss central Asian security, particularly Afghanistan in the wake of the US military withdrawal of last year, and as Western sanctions on the Taliban remain. It comes also at a moment the Iran nuclear deal with world powers continues hanging by a thread, and as the West scrambles to tap alternative oil and energy supplies.
Concerning the ongoing Afghan crisis, Putin indicated in statements while in Tajikistan that "Russia is trying to build relations with the Taliban and that Russia wants to see all the ethnic groups in Afghanistan take part in running the country," according to the AP. Russia has a military base on Tajikistan, which shares a lengthy, hard to secure border with war-torn Afghanistan.
The short central Asian tour is happening as the Kremlin confirms this week that Putin will attend the G20 summit set to be held in Indonesia in November - which could prove deeply awkward as Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited as well:
Vladimir Putin plans to attend the G20 summit in Indonesia in November, an aide to the Russian president said Monday.
Despite launching a brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin was invited to the meeting of the world’s major developed and emerging economies by Indonesian President Joko Widodo — a move that will spark soul-searching for Western allied leaders also invited to the summit.
Some European leaders have suggested they might boycott the G20 summit if it includes Putin's personal participation. On Wednesday's the UK's Boris Johnson said he would do so.
British PM says don’t boycott G20 summit if ‘pariah figure’ Putin attends https://t.co/uhh7udGb7R— South China Morning Post (@SCMPNews) June 29, 2022
However, it remains uncertain whether the Russian leader would actually travel there in person or if he'll address participants via video link. A Kremlin statement indicated:
Putin’s participation — either in person or via video link — is "envisaged" at the meeting, said aide Yury Ushakov, according to Interfax. "They are still inviting in person. There is still a lot of time. I hope that the pandemic will allow this event to be held in person," he added.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is among those who have said they are still deciding on attending the summit after Putin's invitation and participation became clear. "In the end, we will have to make the decision shortly before the departure, because the course of the world can still change very considerably until then," Scholz said.