NewsPutin's shrinking travel map: Limited destinations under tight scrutiny

Putin's shrinking travel map: Limited destinations under tight scrutiny

A short list of friends of Russia and Vladimir Putin
A short list of friends of Russia and Vladimir Putin
Images source: © Getty Images | Contributor#8523328
Radosław Opas

24 June 2024 07:59

Vladimir Putin recently visited North Korea and Vietnam. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, his freedom to travel has been severely limited. There are only a few countries the Kremlin leader can visit.

The West has imposed numerous sanctions on Vladimir Putin due to the invasion of Ukraine. The International Criminal Court even issued a warrant for his arrest. This has significantly restricted the Russian leader’s freedom of movement on the international stage.

However, since becoming president for the fifth time in March, after elections that were neither free nor fair, Putin has already made state visits to five countries: Belarus, Uzbekistan, China, and recently to North Korea and Vietnam.

His hosts risk having sanctions imposed on them, but the Kremlin leader can rely on his most loyal allies. Here is a list of the most important ones.


China is Russia’s most important trading partner. Even before the war in Ukraine, China announced a " no-limits partnership" with Russia. China reaffirmed this statement despite the potentially negative impact on its economy and international image.

China’s stance on the Russian war in Ukraine is not neutral. This is also evidenced by alleged attempts to persuade other countries not to participate in the Swiss peace conference held in mid-June. Russia was not invited, but China’s absence was also significant.

Since the start of the conflict, China has done everything to support the Russian economy. It has also served as an intermediary in trading sanctioned military goods the Russian war machine needs.

Communist China views Russia as a strategic partner in the world order determined by the USA and its allies. Putin strengthened already cordial relations with Beijing in May by travelling to China on a state visit. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia last year.

North Korea

North Korea, with its leader Kim Jong Un, is isolated internationally, but Putin has no fear of contact. The two countries recently signed a defence agreement. It obliges them to support each other in the event of foreign aggression. The North Korean dictator spoke of a powerful alliance.

Russia, in turn, needs all the military aid it can get, and highly militarised North Korea is a country that will supply it to Russia without hesitation. No other country has supported Russia’s war in Ukraine as unconditionally as North Korea. For example, the government (unlike China) voted against every single resolution at the UN condemning Russia for its actions in Ukraine and calling for them to cease.


Belarus is the closest and most loyal ally of Russia, and in the eyes of some commentators, a puppet state controlled by Russia. There are numerous treaties and agreements between the two countries. In many areas, from oil and gas imports to economic subsidies, Belarus is dependent on its largest trading partner.

Russia regularly stations troops and military equipment in Belarus, and in February 2022 launched the invasion of Ukraine from there. Russia has received permission from Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko to station nuclear weapons in the country.


Like Russia, Iran is subject to harsh sanctions from the West. The two countries are closely intertwined economically and militarily, and since the war in Ukraine, have significantly strengthened their cooperation. US intelligence findings indicate this.

Iran supplies Russia with drones and ammunition, which are indispensable at the front. One of Putin’s rare international visits since the invasion of Ukraine was to Iran.

When Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a plane crash in May, Putin sent condolences and spoke of Raisi as a "reliable partner who did great things in fostering friendly relations between Iran and Russia".


Russia has established a permanent military presence in Syria, which is Moscow’s most important base in the Middle East. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a big fan of Vladimir Putin. Above all, however, he relies on Russian military assistance, without which he would not be able to contain the ongoing civil war in the country.

Assad described the war in Ukraine as a "correction of history and a restoration of the balance the world lost after the fall of the Soviet Union". Like Belarus and North Korea, Syria votes against UN resolutions aimed at persuading Russia to end the war.


The communist government of Vietnam has also deepened relations with Russia. During his trip to Asia, which aimed to strengthen Russia’s influence on the international stage, Putin spoke about trade, defence, and the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin leader signed a defence agreement with Vietnam. The country has not yet condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Vietnamese President To Lam congratulated his guest on his re-election and expressed admiration for achieving "internal political stability". According to Putin, strengthening the strategic partnership with Vietnam is one of Russia’s priorities.

Related content