Chinese leader Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week

HONG KONG — Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia early next week, his first such trip since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

At the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Xi will pay a state visit from Monday to Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“During this visit, President Xi will hold in-depth exchanges of views with President Putin on bilateral relations and major international regional issues of mutual concern,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing. “The strategic coordination and practical cooperation between the two countries will help expand bilateral ties.”

The visit was also confirmed by the Kremlin.

“The two leaders will discuss key issues to further develop the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China,” the statement said.

It said a number of “Important bilateral documents” would also be signed.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not confirm reports that Xi’s trip to Russia would be followed by a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with whom the Chinese leader has not spoken since the war began last February.

“We are in touch with all parties,” Wang replied to a question about the reports.

Xi’s visit to Russia comes as China seeks to position itself as a mediator in the conflict, now in its second year. A 12-point peace proposal published by Beijing last month met with a tepid response in both Ukraine and Russia, while the West was quick to dismiss it as too favorable for Moscow.

China, which declared a borderless partnership with Russia weeks before invading Ukraine, has tried to present itself as neutral in the conflict. She has refrained from condemning Russia’s aggression, let alone calling it an invasion, while calling for negotiations and careful not to violate international sanctions.

The United States has warned that China may consider sending artillery and ammunition to Russia for use in the conflict, which would mean a major change in its modus operandi. Beijing dismissed the reports and accused Washington of escalating the conflict with its support for Kiev.

In a rare phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart on Thursday, China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang said Beijing was worried the conflict could spiral out of control and hoped for a political solution.

“China has always taken an objective and fair position on the Ukraine issue, is committed to promoting peace talks and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks,” he told Dmytro Kuleba Ministry, according to a reading by Chinese foreign countries.

Kuleba, who also spoke to Foreign Minister Antony Blinken earlier on Thursday, said on Twitter that he and Qin “discussed the importance of the principle of territorial integrity.” He also stressed the importance of Zelenskyy’s own peace plan.

Xi and Putin met on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan last September. Putin invited Xi on a state visit during a video conference in December, and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi laid further groundwork for the trip when he was in Moscow last month.

Eric Baculinao, Jace Zhang And John Joe Regan contributed.

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