BEIJING (AP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to visit Russia Monday through Wednesday to apparently show his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin amid rising East-West tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s ongoing incursion into Ukraine is expected to dominate discussions between Putin and Xi. China has refused to condemn Moscow’s aggression and has tried to present itself as neutral in the conflict, despite Beijing declaring last year that it has a “boundless” friendship with Russia.
The meeting between the heads of state and government was announced by both countries on Friday.
China has said all countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected, while condemning Western sanctions and accusing NATO and the United States of provoking Russia into military action.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing was concerned that the years-long conflict was spiraling out of control and was urging talks on a political settlement with Moscow.
China has “always taken an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, committed to promoting peace and advancing negotiations, and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks,” Qin said.
Kuleba later tweeted that he and Qin “discussed the importance of the principle of territorial integrity.”
“I underscored the importance of the peace formula (of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy) in stopping aggression and restoring a just peace in Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote, speaking with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the same day.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a daily briefing on Friday that Xi “have in-depth exchanges of views with President Putin on bilateral relations and important international and regional issues of common interest, promote strategic cooperation and practical cooperation between the two countries.” and new impetus for the development of bilateral relations.”
“At present, with the accelerated development of the changes of the century, the world is entering a new period of turbulence and reform. As permanent members of the UN Security Council and major key countries, the significance and impact of China-Russia relations goes far beyond the bilateral sphere,” he added.
The trip comes after the destruction of a US drone over the Black Sea after an encounter with Russian warplanes that brought the two countries the closest to direct conflict since Moscow invaded Ukraine a year ago.
The Kremlin also announced Xi’s visit on Friday, saying it will be “at the invitation of Vladimir Putin.”
Xi and Putin will discuss “issues of further developing the comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China” and exchange ideas “in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation at the international level,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
The two leaders will also sign “important bilateral documents,” the statement said.
Putin invited Xi to visit Russia during a video conference in late December. The visit, Putin said, could “demonstrate the strength of Russian-Chinese relations to the whole world” and “become the most important political event of the year in bilateral relations.”
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