Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly prepared to venture out for his first foreign trip since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued his arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.
Putin will be making his visit in China for the Belt and Road Forum in October, according to a Bloomberg report.
The ICC issued Putin’s arrest warrant in March over his alleged involvement in abducting and illegal deporting children from Ukraine, reportedly causing panic inside the Kremlin about the stability of Putin’s rule and whether the warrant was tantamount to calling for regime change.
Putin has kept a lower profile in recent months in order to avoid travel to countries that could enforce the arrest warrant. He did not attend the BRICS summit in person in South Africa last week after months of back and forth debates over whether it would be safe for him to do so.
Instead, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov traveled to Johannesburg, while Putin virtually attended, in a decision that has been seen as an attempt to avoid international scandal over the arrest warrant.
Leakers Reveal Kremlin Secretly Panicking Over Putin’s Arrest Warrant
Putin has been shirking from other international travel as well. The Russian president informed India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, this week that he will not be traveling to India next month for the G20 summit. A Kremlin spokesperson has said Putin is too “busy” to attend.
China has run a delicate balancing act since Putin invaded Ukraine last year. China and Russia share what they call a “no-limits partnership.” But Xi was caught off guard when Putin invaded Ukraine, according to a U.S. intelligence community assessment. Even so, Beijing has refused to condemn Russia’s actions, and has continued to spend billions of dollars spreading pro-Russia disinformation about the war in Ukraine.
The visit to China will come months after President Xi Jinping visited Russia in March, where he praised Putin for his “strong leadership.”
During the visit, Beijing worked to portray itself as a constructive partner, sharing details about a proposed peace plan for Ukraine—one that leaned pro-Russia—all the while claiming it held an “impartial position” on the war. Xi signaled at the time that China and Russia’s partnership would continue with a shared aim of countering U.S. influence on the world stage.
Much has changed since that trip. Putin has fended off a staged revolt from Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the largest challenge to Putin’s hold on power in years. Prigozhin has presumably died after a mysterious plane crash that Russia watchers have said was a likely assassination orchestrated by Putin himself in an attempt to shore up power.
Wagner Founder Prigozhin Reported Dead in Fiery Plane Crash
Beijing, too, has been experiencing some turmoil among senior officials in recent weeks. First, China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, went missing, only to later be ousted. Then earlier this month, Beijing replaced the head of China’s rocket force unit, General Li Yuchao, and his deputy, in a sign Xi may be feeling uneasy about his sense of control over his regime, as The Daily Beast reported.
The meeting also comes as Russia prepares to take chairmanship in January of the BRICS group, at a time when the club—an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—is eyeing adding new members to grow their collective political and economic influence on the world stage.
For Russia, changing the group’s membership is likely seen as a way to stymie Moscow’s isolation in the international arena while Putin continues to wage war in Ukraine.
For China, some of the changes on the horizon could be a way to show unity and support for Beijing after alienating allies with its “no-limits partnership” with Moscow, even as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reported.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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