ON A TRAIN FROM SUMY TO KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s president invited his powerful Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to visit the war-torn nation, saying they had not been in contact since the war began and he ” ready for it” see him here.”
“I want to talk to him,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Associated Press on Tuesday, a week after Xi visited Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. China had no immediate answer as to whether a Xi visit to Ukraine would take place.
China has aligned itself economically with neighboring Russia for many decades and is politically pro-aligned, and Beijing has given Putin diplomatic protection by adopting an official neutral position in the war. Xi, a powerful leader who commands the resources of the world’s most populous nation, is a key player in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and even China’s lack of involvement is a powerful statement.
Zelenskyi spoke to the AP aboard a train that shuttles him across Ukraine, to towns near some of the fiercest fighting and to others where his country’s forces have successfully repelled the Russian invasion. Zelenskyy rarely travels with journalists, and the president’s office said the AP’s two-day train ride with him was the largest since the war began.
Zelenskyy has already issued invitations to Xi in recent months, but this explicit call for a visit comes days after the Chinese leader visited Putin in Russia last week. But the Ukrainian leader said he did not communicate with Xi for the duration of the conflict.
“We are ready to see him here,” Zelenskyy said. “I had contact with him before it became a full-blown war. But all year, more than a year, I hadn’t.”
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning was asked whether Xi would accept an invitation from Zelenskyy – or whether one had been officially extended. She told reporters she had no information to give. She said Beijing is “maintaining communication with all parties concerned, including Ukraine.”
Asked whether a meeting between Xi and Zelenskyy would be useful to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian authorities “greatly appreciate” China’s balanced position on the issue “and have no right to give any advice” if the two should meet. “The Chinese leader himself decides on the appropriateness of certain contacts,” Peskov said during his daily conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
Xi’s visit to Russia last week raised the prospect that Beijing could be ready to provide Moscow with the arms and ammunition it needs to replenish its depleted stockpiles. But Xi’s journey ended without such an announcement. Days later, Putin announced that he would deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, which borders Russia and pushes the Kremlin’s nuclear arsenal closer to NATO territory.
Zelenskyy indicated that Putin’s move was intended to distract from the lack of guarantees he had received from China.
“What does that mean? It means that the visit was not good for Russia,” Zelenskyy speculated.
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