India’s Narendra Modi makes first Russia visit since start of war — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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India’s Narendra Modi makes first Russia visit since start of war

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin walking in the grounds of Putin’s Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, 8 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin walking in the grounds of Putin’s Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, 8 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN

In his first trip to Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Moscow on Monday for talks with Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin reported.

Modi’s two-day visit began with informal talks at Putin’s Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Monday, where Putin greeted the Indian leader as his “dear friend”, according to the Kremlin. Modi, in turn, expressed his “great joy” at being invited to a “friend’s home”.

The official part of Modi’s visit will begin on Tuesday, when the two leaders are set to meet in the Kremlin for official negotiations.

Writing on X upon landing in Moscow on Monday afternoon, Modi said he was looking forward to “further deepening the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” between India and Russia” and said that Tuesday’s official talks would “go a long way in further cementing the bonds of friendship” between the two nations.

While the two last met at a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan in 2022, Modi last travelled to Russia in 2019 to attend an economic forum in Vladivostok in the country’s Far East.

Photo: EPA-EFE / GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL

Photo: EPA-EFE / GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL 

Modi’s latest visit drew strong condemnation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said it was a “huge disappointment” and “devastating blow to peace efforts” that the Indian leader had met with Putin on the same day that Russian missiles struck multiple targets across Ukraine, including the country’s largest children’s hospital in Kyiv, killing at least 40 people and injuring many more.

The US State Department, meanwhile, said that it had “made quite clear directly with India” its “concerns” about the country’s relationship with Russia, with a spokesperson telling reporters on Monday that India and other countries who engage with Russia should remind it to “respect the UN Charter [and] Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Indian news outlet NDTV cited anonymous sources who said that Putin had agreed to “facilitate the return” of Indian citizens serving in the Russian military after Modi raised the issue with him on Monday evening. However, on Tuesday Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the reported agreement.

India’s Foreign Ministry said in June that two Indian nationals had been killed while fighting for Russia in Ukraine, after reports emerged earlier this year that dozens of Indians had been trafficked to the frontline after being promised jobs or university places in Russia.

The Indian Foreign Ministry first raised the issue with the Russian authorities in February after it was reported that at least 18 Indian citizens had been stranded in the Russian-occupied cities of Donetsk and Mariupol in eastern Ukraine.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said in March that it had established around 35 cases of Indian citizens who were scammed into joining Russia’s war effort against Ukraine.

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