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Putin makes first trip abroad since ICC arrest warrant

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on his first foreign trip since the International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued an arrest warrant against him in March, visited the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan on Thursday.

Vladimir Putin has rarely travelled abroad since the war in Ukraine began in early 2022, and is not known to have left Russia since the ICC issued a search warrant for him, accusing him of overseeing the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine. Russia denies the allegations against Putin.

The Russian President is scheduled to visit China next week to attend the third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Neither Kyrgyzstan nor China are members of the ICC. The organisation was created to prosecute war crimes.

As part of his trip to Kyrgyzstan, the Kremlin chief will attend a summit of the CIS, which unites some former Soviet republics. The summit will be held in Bishkek on Friday amid signs that Russia’s influence in parts of the Soviet Union, such as Armenia, is under pressure.

Russia’s ties with other countries in the region, which it has traditionally considered its allies, have come under pressure due to their enforcement of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine.

At a meeting with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Vladimir Putin said that Russia intended to further develop cooperation with Kyrgyzstan, and he also emphasised Russia’s importance as a key trade partner and the largest investor in the Kyrgyz economy. He said he would also attend a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia’s Kant military airbase that is located outside Bishkek, a strategically-important outpost which allows Moscow to project strength in the region.

Putin emphasised the significant growth in trade between Russia and Kyrgyzstan. Some Western analysts believe that this growth is due to the lifting of sanctions on Russian businesses thanks to Kyrgyz intermediaries.

In July, four Kyrgyz companies fell under US sanctions for re-exporting electronics components and other technology to Russia. Last week, Kyrgyzstan’s central bank urged local banks to step up enforcement of Western sanctions against Moscow.

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