Vladimir Putin welcomes Xi Jinping’s plan to settle the ‘acute crisis in Ukraine’ on Moscow visit

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China has declared a “no-limits” friendship with Russia and refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has welcomed his Chinese counterpart’s plan to settle “the acute crisis in Ukraine”, as President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow for the pair’s historic meeting.

Xi’s government announced he would travel to Russia just hours before the International Criminal Court charged Putin with war crimes. The Russian President welcomed the Chinese leader to the Kremlin on Monday, in a visit that sent a powerful message to Western leaders allied with Ukraine that their efforts to isolate Moscow have fallen short.

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The leaders declared they had a “no-limits friendship” before the February 2022 attack on Ukraine, but China has tried to portray itself as neutral. Beijing called for a cease-fire last month, but Washington said that would ratify the Kremlin’s battlefield gains.

As he greeted Xi on Monday, Putin said he welcomed his plan for “settlement of the acute crisis in Ukraine”. They shook hands before sitting down and making brief statements at the start of their meeting, calling each other “dear friend” and exchanging compliments.

Putin congratulated Xi on his recent re-election, and voiced hope for building even stronger ties. “China has made a colossal leap ahead in its development in recent years,” Putin said, adding that “it’s causing genuine interest all around the world, and we even feel a bit envious”, as Xi smiled.

He welcomed China’s proposals for a political settlement in Ukraine and noted Russia is open for talks. “We will discuss all those issues, including your initiative that we highly respect,” Putin said. “Our co-operation in the international arena undoubtedly helps strengthen the basic principles of the global order and multipolarity.”

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Xi said: “We hope that the strategic partnership between China and Russia will on the one hand uphold international fairness and justice, and on the other hand promote the common prosperity and development of our countries.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that, over dinner on Monday, the two leaders’ discussions were likely to include a “detailed explanation” of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. Broader talks involving officials from both countries on a range of subjects were scheduled for Tuesday, Peskov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with China's President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on Monday. Picture: Sergei Karpuhkin/AFP via Getty Images)Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with China's President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on Monday. Picture: Sergei Karpuhkin/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with China's President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on Monday. Picture: Sergei Karpuhkin/AFP via Getty Images)

An earlier statement from the Kremlin said Xi and Putin would discuss “issues of further development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China”, as well as exchange views “in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese co-operation in the international arena”.

The two leaders would also sign “important bilateral documents”, the statement read. Beijing has also condemned western sanctions and accused Nato and the United States of provoking Russia.

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On Thursday, Politico reported that customs documents show that China is shipping assault rifles, drones and body armour to Russia, via Turkey and UAE. It is unclear if this equipment is being used on the battlefield, but this is the first time documents have revealed that Beijing is sending equipment to Russia.

The meeting gives Putin and Xi a chance to show they have “powerful partners” at a time of strained relations with Washington, said Joseph Torigian, an expert in Chinese-Russian relations at American University in Washington.

“China can signal that it could even do more to help Russia, and that if relations with the United States continue to deteriorate, they could do a lot more to enable Russia and help Russia in its war against Ukraine,” Mr Torigian said.

Beijing’s relations with Washington, Europe and its neighbours are strained by disputes over technology, security, human rights and the ruling Communist Party’s treatment of Hong Kong and Muslim minorities.

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Some commentators have pointed to a possible parallel between Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory and Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. Putin invited Xi to visit Russia during a video conference call the two held in late December. The visit, Putin said, could “demonstrate to the whole world the strength of the Russian-Chinese ties” and “become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations”.

In a rare phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart on Thursday, China’s foreign minister said Beijing is concerned about the year-old grinding conflict with Russia spinning out of control and called for talks over a political solution with Moscow.

Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba China has “always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, has committed itself to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks”, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

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Kuleba later tweeted that he and Qin “discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity”. “I underscored the importance of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s)’s Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine,” wrote Mr Kuleba, who spoke the same day with US secretary of state Antony Blinken.

This week’s meeting follows the ICC announcement on Friday of charges that Putin is personally responsible for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine. Governments that recognise the court’s jurisdiction would be obligated to arrest Putin if he visits. He has yet to comment on the announcement, but the Kremlin rejected the move as “outrageous and unacceptable”.

In a show of defiance over the weekend, Putin visited Crimea and the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Russian news reports showed him chatting with Mariupol residents and visiting an art school and a children’s centre in Sevastopol in Crimea.

Xi said in an article published on Monday in the Russian newspaper Russian Gazette that China has “actively promoted peace talks” but announced no initiatives. “My upcoming visit to Russia will be a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” Xi wrote, according to text released by the official Xinhua News Agency.

He added a “reasonable way to resolve the crisis” can be found if “all parties embrace the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security”.

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