Couldn’t have foreseen Russia’s Ukraine invasion: Imran

In interview with Sky News, PTI chief says purpose of his visit to Kremlin was to discuss bilateral agreements

Islamabad: Former prime minister Imran Khan has insisted he wasn’t aware that Russia was going to invade Ukraine on the same day he met Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Speaking to Sky News, Imran, who was ousted by opposition parties in April, has been heavily criticised for having face-to-face talks with Russia’s president and shaking hands with him just hours after the war in Ukraine began on 24 February. On a video link from Peshawar, the PTI chairman, who arrived in Russia on 23 February for a two-day visit, said: “How the hell was I supposed to know that the day I landed in Moscow that Putin was going into Ukraine.

“I have never believed in military solutions, ours was a bilateral meeting, it was planned long before. We didn’t realise that when I would reach there Putin would go into Ukraine. How was I supposed to know and how can you be punished for that?” The ousted premier added he is against military solutions in Ukraine and the purpose of his visit to the Kremlin was to discuss bilateral agreements.

He was also questioned about his government’s close ties with China and Russia, with Imran stating that he was elected to serve the people of Pakistan. “There are 50 million people in Pakistan below the poverty line, I was not elected for them to correct all the wrongs that are going on in the world.” He added: “My responsibility was to my country and so all my relationships, whether it was with China, with the United States, with Russia, were for the benefits of our own people.”

Indian atrocities in Kashmir

Imran also accused India of violating United Nations resolutions in Kashmir, saying New Delhi has “illegally taken away the right of the Kashmiri people”. “Did anyone speak against it? There are atrocities going on in Kashmir, 100,000 people in Kashmir have died. Has anyone condemned India for that? No because India is an ally, allow us to be neutral too so we can look after our people.”

No support for Taliban

Pakistan shares a large border with Afghanistan and Imran was asked about the Taliban takeover of the country last year. He said “there was never going to be a military solution” in Afghanistan. “I am not responsible or a spokesman for the Taliban, if there was any other solution after 20 years of war, you should have found some solution,” he said, adding that Pakistan has never supported the Taliban. “Pakistan is the collateral damage of Afghanistan.” In April, the former prime minister lost a no-confidence vote after opposition parties brought a motion against him, blaming Imran for failing to revive the economy and tackle corruption.