Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Russia on a 2-day official visit the very same day that Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine. On his arrival at Moscow airport, the South Asian leader was caught on camera gleefully quipping “What a time I have come! so much excitement”. This reaction from the leader of a so-called democratic nation immediately caught media attention and was largely interpreted as Pakistan having thrown its support in favour of Russia on the Ukraine issue. The other interpretation could be Imran Khan’s complete disregard for the international rule based order and a lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation where a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity had been unilaterally violated by Russia.
Here and there. From the world (still) at peace to the world at war. From our screens, our streets, our cafés, our subways, to their alerts, their fleeing, their shelters, their deaths. From our first flowering shrub to their snow, their mud, their terror and their resistance. Between Paris and Kiev, this European capital three hours away by plane, a chasm has opened up. We watch, stunned, as the missiles smash a beautiful and great city, filled with the sounds of life so short a time ago, night years away. Kiev. I was walking along its immense boulevards in January. Kreshatyk Avenue leading to the Maidan, the old streets of the Podol district tumbling down to the Dnieper.
For anyone who visited Kiev – I was there at the end of January – in the weeks preceding Vladimir Putin’s coup de force, the prospect of seeing the weapons speak is a heartbreaker and an appalling waste. For two reasons. Firstly, the youth I met in the cafés of Kreschatyk Street, the main and monumental thoroughfare of the Ukrainian capital, is fundamentally pro-European. In the region, they look more to Vilnius in Lithuania, an EU member state where many young Ukrainians study, than to Moscow.