Vladimir Putin makes first foreign trip since Ukraine invasion

by Barbara R. Abercrombie
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Putin’s last known visit outside Russia was to Beijing in early February, where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a “no borders” friendship treaty.

Vladimir Putin will visit two small former Soviet states in Central Asia this week in the Russian leader’s first known trip abroad since the order to invade Ukraine.

Pavel Zarubin, the Kremlin correspondent for state television channel Rossiya 1, said Putin would visit Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and then meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo for talks in Moscow.

In Dushanbe, Putin meets Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, a close Russian ally and the longest-serving ruler of a former Soviet state. In Ashgabat, he will attend a summit of Caspian countries, including the leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Turkmenistan, Zarubin said.

Putin’s last known trip outside of Russia was a visit to Beijing in early February, where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a “no borders” friendship treaty hours before both attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

The Russian invasion of February 24 killed thousands, displaced millions more, and led to severe financial sanctions from the West, which Putin says are grounds for building stronger trade ties with other powers such as China, India, and Iran.

Russia says it sent troops to Ukraine to reduce its neighbor’s military capabilities, prevent it from being used by the West to threaten Russia, exterminate nationalists, and defend Russian speakers in eastern regions.

Ukraine calls the invasion an imperial-style land grab.


Russian President Vladimir Putin relaxes after fishing in Southern Siberia [Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via Reuters]

Jackets off?

World leaders, meanwhile, mocked Putin’s tough-guy image at a Group of Seven (G7) lunch in Germany on Sunday, joking about whether they should strip down to his shirtsleeves – or less.

“Jackets on? Jackets off? Do we take off our coats?” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked as he sat down at the picturesque Elmau Castle in Bavaria, where German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hosted the summit of seven powerful democracies.

The leaders — from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the European Union — pondered the dilemma.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested we wait for the official photo before they undress, but then Johnson joked, “We have to show we are stronger than Putin,” and the joke just kept rolling.

“We’re going to have a bare-chested riding show,” Trudeau said, referring to Putin’s infamous 2009 photo of him riding a horse shirtless.

“Horse riding is the best,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, without addressing the clothing issue itself.

Johnson intervened: “We have to show them our pecs.”

The leaders posed – coats on – for photos before reporters were chased out of the room and left the sartorial debate behind closed doors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin rode a horse near the western Sayan Mountains in the Tuva region of southern Siberia in 2007 [RIA Novosti/Kremlin via Reuters]

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