Islamabad, Pakistan – Russian President Vladimir Putin has met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Moscow, as Russian forces continued their invasion of Ukraine, with the latter expressing “regret” that a military conflict was not averted, according to a Pakistani statement.
Khan met Putin at the Kremlin on Thursday evening, both governments said, with the two holding a photo op before going into talks that were described by Pakistan as “a summit meeting”.
A Russian government statement described PM Khan’s tour of Moscow as a “working visit”.
“The leaders of the two countries discussed the main aspects of bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on current regional topics, including developments in South Asia,” said the brief statement from the Russian presidency.
Before the visit, Pakistan’s foreign office said the two leaders’ talks would focus on regional developments, Afghanistan, Islamophobia and a major gas pipeline deal that Pakistan is seeking to finalise with Russia.
On the conflict in Ukraine, PM Khan’s office offered his country’s first official statement by saying that Pakistan was not in favour of conflict, but avoiding ascribing responsibility for the hostilities.
“Prime Minister [Imran Khan] regretted the latest situation between Russia and Ukraine and said that Pakistan had hoped diplomacy could avert a military conflict,” said the statement, released as Russian air and ground forces continued their invasion of Ukrainian territory.
“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.”
The two leaders did not speak to the press following their meeting, and Russia offered no further statements on the meeting. A Pakistani statement said the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline project was discussed, but no agreements appear to have been signed during the visit.
PM Khan also met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, while Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held brief talks with his Russian counterpart, Pakistani statements said.
On Friday, Pakistan’s embassy in Ukraine advised the estimated 500 Pakistani students currently stranded in Ukraine to make their way to the eastern town of Ternopil, about 360km (224 miles) east of the capital, Kyiv, so that they could be evacuated.
“All Pakistani students in Ukraine are advised to reach Ternopil [as soon as possible] for evacuation,” read a Pakistani foreign ministry statement. The statement said Pakistan’s embassy in Ukraine was currently “fully functional” in Ternopil.
Public transport and train services have been badly affected by the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine.
The country is home to roughly 1,500 Pakistani citizens, the state-run radio broadcaster Radio Pakistan quoted Pakistani ambassador to Ukraine Noel Israel Khokhar as saying.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.