Putin to visit China for first time since ICC international arrest warrant was issued

Vladimir Putin will leave Russia and travel the farthest distance from his home country for the first time since an arrest warrant was issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to a report.

Mr Putin has reportedly accepted an invitation by Xi Jinping to visit China and the Kremlin is gearing up for his attendance at the Belt and Road Forum in October, three people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

News of the visit comes after Mr Putin declined an invitation by India to attend G20 summit next week. The Kremlin said the Russian leader has a “busy schedule” while his main focus at the moment is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia will be instead be represented by its foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Moscow is an ally to Delhi and Beijing, both of whom are regional rivals and share strained diplomatic ties with each other. Both countries are not signatories to the ICC either.

The Russian leader has, ever since the warrant was issued, travelled only to Russian-occupied areas in Ukraine. Before the warrant, he had visited Iran last year.

On Tuesday, the Kremlin said a schedule for bilateral Russian-Chinese contacts was being worked out, when asked about the reported visit.

“The schedule of bilateral Russian-Chinese contacts at various levels, including at the highest level, is being coordinated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“We will inform you about specific events and deadlines in a timely manner.”

Mr Putin and Mr Xi have declared a “no limits” partnership between their countries. China has refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine directly while emphasing the importance of upholding Kyiv’s territorial integrity.

In March, an arrest warrant was issued against Mr Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, for alleged war crimes committed by deporting Ukrainian children into Russia during the conflict.

Human rights groups have estimated that more than 19,000 children were deported and placed with Russian families. Russian officials have claimed the children were taken in as a war-time humanitarian gesture.

The Kremlin has rejected the war crime accusations.

The Russian leader had earlier avoided going to South Africa, which is an ICC signatory, to attend the Brics summit last week.

Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan also invited Mr Putin to visit Ankara for talks on a Black Sea grain deal, but he is now said to be considering traveling to Moscow himself. Turkey is not an ICC signatory.

The flurry of announcements about the diplomatic visits come as British foreign minister James Cleverly visited China in the first such visit by a UK diplomat in five years.

Mr Cleverly said he will urge China to fulfil its international commitments and show responsibility on the world stage on the Ukraine invasion.

On Mr Putin’s purpoted visit to Beijing, he said, “Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine cannot be justified by Moscow or indeed anywhere else”.

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