The Russian leader participated to the first-ever summit in the Russia-Central Asia format in a bid to boost his alliances away from the West with former members of the Soviet Union.. The leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan also attended the summit.
At the meeting with his counterparts, Putin urged the use of “goodwill” to settle conflicts around the world, failing to mention Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian leader said: “Everyone has goodwill, and we need to use this goodwill to the maximum.
“We must strive to find ways out of the current situation, wherever it arises.”
According to lead Russia research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Dr Stepan Stepanenko, the summit shows Putin’s understanding that Asia is the only base he can rely on, after being abandoned by all his Western allies with the exception of Belarus.
He told Express.co.uk: “The CIS remains one of the few international bodies at which Russia is a welcomed guest. Putin’s comments at the summit on the multipolar world and the strengthening of Asiatic power bases signifies his understanding of Asian countries being the sole power bases on which he can rely. The pro-Ukrainian votes in the UN and the CIS and Chinese abstentions are reflections of this.
“However, the deals at the CIS are unlikely to impact immediate security of Europe directly but reflect the wider moves by Russia to influence European politics and the war in Ukraine.
“Desperate for a ‘win’, Russian media reported yesterday that Belarus is extending the counterterrorism operation, as Russia now calls its invasion of Ukraine, to Belarusian soil.
“With the deep ties between the two states and Belarusian supply of tanks and other weapons to the floundering Russian military, it will be unsurprising if Belarus becomes, once again, a stage for a renewed offensive on northern Ukraine.
“While the involvement of Belarusian forces is unlikely considering the public disapproval of such a move as reflected by a lack of an official comment from Minsk, any form of support for the Russian military, including the launches of rockets into Ukraine, has to be seen as direct involvement in the conflict.
“Russia, too, will push to secure new deals to sell its oil and gas on the Asian market. Already in talks with Bulgaria and Serbia to act as hubs for Russian fuels, bypassing the Nord Stream pipelines, Putin will need the support of CIS countries in central Asia and the Caucasus for this plan to work, as well as facing the more challenging task of facilitating transit through Turkey.
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“It is beyond doubt that further financial assistance through oil and gas sails will harm Ukrainian and Western efforts to contain and reverse Russian aggression. States that engage with Russia need to be made aware of the cost the West will impose on them for supporting a terrorist state, as recognised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.”
Putin told a news conference at the end of a summit in Kazakhstan that his call-up of Russian reservists would be over within two weeks and there were no plans for a further mobilisation.
He also repeated the Kremlin position that Russia was willing to hold talks, although he said they would require international mediation if Ukraine was willing to take part.
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Taken together, Putin’s comments appeared to suggest a slight softening of his tone as the war nears the end of its eighth month, after weeks of Ukrainian advances and significant Russian defeats.
But he was speaking after a week when Russia has staged its heaviest missile attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities since the start of its invasion of February 24 – an action that Putin has said was retaliation for an attack that damaged a Russian bridge to occupied Crimea.
“We do not set ourselves the task of destroying Ukraine. No, of course not,” Putin said.
He said there was “no need for massive strikes” now because most designated targets had been hit.