Vladimir Putin will visit two small former Soviet states in central Asia this week in what would be the Russian leader’s first known trip abroad since ordering the invasion of Ukraine.
Pavel Zarubin, the Kremlin correspondent of the Rossiya 1 state television station, said Putin would visit Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and then meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo for talks in Moscow.
In Dushanbe, Putin will meet 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 nations including the leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Turkmenistan, Zarubin said.
Putin’s last known trip outside Russia was a visit to Beijing in early February, where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a “no limits” friendship treaty hours before both attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games.
Russia’s February 24 invasion has killed thousands of people, displaced millions more, and led to severe financial sanctions from the West, which Putin says are a reason to build stronger trade ties with other powers such as China, India and Iran.
Russia says it sent troops into Ukraine to degrade its neighbour’s military capabilities, keep it from being used by the West to threaten Russia, root out nationalists, and defend Russian speakers in eastern regions.
Ukraine calls the invasion an imperial-style land grab.
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 shirtsleeves – or even less.
“Jackets on? Jackets off? Do we take our coats off?” United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked as he sat down at the table in Bavaria’s picturesque Elmau Castle, where German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was hosting 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.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested they wait for the official picture before disrobing but then Johnson quipped, “We have to show that we’re tougher than Putin” and the joke kept rolling.
“We’re going to get the bare-chested horseback riding display,” Trudeau said, referring to Putin’s infamous 2009 photo op of himself riding shirtless on a horse.
“Horseback riding is the best,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, without apparently weighing in on the clothing issue itself.
Johnson interjected: “We’ve got to show them our pecs.”
The leaders posed – jackets on – for photos before reporters were hustled out of the room, leaving the sartorial debate behind closed doors.