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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday held a detailed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with "wide-ranging consultations" on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest. The premier regretted the latest situation between Russia and Ukraine, saying that Pakistan had hoped diplomacy could avert a military conflict.

The two leaders reviewed the entire array of bilateral relations, including economic and energy cooperation, particularly the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline, according to a communique issued after the meeting.

​Recalling the telephone conversations during the recent months between the two leaders, the PM expressed confidence that the positive trajectory of bilateral relations will continue to move forward in the future. PM Imran said that "trust and cordiality" marking the relationship would translate into further deepening and broadening of mutual cooperation in diverse fields.

The premier reaffirmed the importance of the Pakistan-Stream Gas Pipeline as a flagship economic project between Pakistan and Russia and also discussed cooperation on prospective energy-related projects. ​In the regional context, he underlined the urgency of addressing the humanitarian crisis and preventing potential economic meltdown in Afghanistan.

PM Imran reiterated that Pakistan would continue to work with the international community for a stable Afghanistan. In this regard, he underscored the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and Russia at various international and regional fora, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

​On the situation in South Asia, the Prime Minister highlighted the serious human rights situation in IIOJK and underscored the imperative of peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The Prime Minister also highlighted the developments detrimental to regional peace and stability and stressed the need for measures that would help keep the regional balance.

"​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 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," it read​. ​ Expressing concerns on rising trends of extremism and Islamophobia in the world, the PM emphasised the need for interfaith harmony and coexistence. Appreciating President Putin’s understanding of the respect and sensitivities that the Muslims attach to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the Prime Minister said that inter-faith harmony and respect for all religions was imperative for peace and harmony within and among the societies.

​The PM along with high-level delegation is on a two-day visit to the Russian Federation from 23-24 February 2022. The Prime Minister is accompanied by cabinet members and senior officials.

The regional situation, including the developing scenario of Ukraine also came under discussion.

The Russian president also hosted a luncheon for Prime Minister Imran Khan. Earlier on his arrival at Kremlin, the Prime Minister was warmly received by Russian president.

The prime minister was accompanied by a high-level delegation, including federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Asad Umar, Hammad Azhar, Commerce Advisor Abdur Razzak Dawood, National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf and Member of the National Assembly Amir Mahmood Kiyani. This is the first bilateral visit by a Pakistani Prime Minister to Russia after a gap of 23 years and is being termed as a historic step to renew relations between the two countries.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Moscow to pay tributes to the Soviet soldiers killed during World War-II.

The Prime Minister laid a floral wreath at the monument.

A minute of silence after the laying of the floral wreath at the tomb of unmarked soldiers as a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives.

Meeting with Russian deputy PM

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak along with his delegation met with PM Imran in Moscow on Thursday, with a special focus on cooperation in the field of energy.

Highlighting the government’s reforms undertaken in different sectors with the aim of improving the business environment, the PM expressed confidence that Russian companies and businesses would benefit from Pakistan’s improved business environment and invest in different sectors of Pakistan’s economy.

PM Imran reiterated the importance of the Pakistan-Stream Gas Pipeline as a flagship economic project between Pakistan and Russia. The two sides also discussed cooperation on prospective energy-related projects.

Expressing satisfaction on the current level of cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, investment, railways etc., both sides agreed that Inter-Governmental Commission was the pivotal platform to further advance specific projects.

Following the meeting, the PM had an interactive session with notable businessmen of Pakistan and Russia over the dinner. He stated that Pakistan as a market of more than 220 million people provided opportunity for trade and investment, adding that the forthcoming investment conference to be held in March in Pakistan would be an opportunity for metallurgical, energy, construction and oil and gas companies to explore the immense potential in Pakistan.

Moreover, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov called on PM Imran.

The PM appreciated the rebuilding of Grozny and the rapid progress of the Chechen Republic under the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov. Stating that relations between Pakistan and Russia were on an upward trajectory, the PM encouraged the promotion of cooperation between different provinces of Pakistan and regions/republics of Russia.

Later, the PM concluded the two-day visit to Russia with a tour of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque where Grand Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin received the PM and his delegation. PM Imran the need for countering the rising trend of Islamophobia around the world. He also underlined the need for forging interfaith harmony for peaceful coexistence in an increasingly fragmented world. In this regard, President Putin’s understanding of the sensitivities that the Muslims attach to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was appreciated by the premier.

The Grand Mufti briefed the PM on the history of the Mosque and also thanked the premier for his visit.

Arrival in Russia

Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Igor Morgulov received the Prime Minister at the airport.

At his arrival, Guard of Honor was also presented to the Prime Minister.

PM Imran's trip to meet President Vladimir Putin and discuss issues including economic cooperation comes hours after a number of Western nations hit Russia with new sanctions for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.

"Both countries are eager to launch the project at the earliest," Pakistan's energy ministry spokesman told Reuters about the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline.

The 1,100 km (683 mile)-long pipeline, also known as the North-South gas pipeline, was initially agreed to in 2015 and was to be financed by both Moscow and Islamabad, using a Russian company to construct it.

In an interview ahead of his trip, 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 would deliver imported Liquified Natural Gas from Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast to power plants in the northeastern province of Punjab.

The project 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 on Tuesday.

"So, the problem was to get a company that wasn’t sanctioned," he said of the project.

According to the Foreign Office statement issued on February 21, "At the invitation of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Imran Khan will pay an official visit to Russia on 23-24 February 2022. The Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including members of the Cabinet. The bilateral summit will be the highlight of the visit."

During the summit meeting, it read the two leaders would review the entire array of bilateral relations including energy cooperation. They will also have a wide-ranging exchange of views on major regional and international issues, including Islamophobia and the situation in Afghanistan.

"The visit of the Prime Minister will contribute to the further deepening of the multifaceted Pakistan-Russia bilateral relationship and enhancement of mutual cooperation in diverse fields," it read.