Tuesday, 21 March 2023

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Xi Jinping to visit Vladimir Putin in Russia next week

Xi Jinping to visit Vladimir Putin in Russia next week

Chinese president Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday in a move that will reaffirm the leaders’ strong ties despite western condemnation of Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

China’s foreign ministry said Xi and Putin would have “in-depth exchanges on bilateral relations and important international and regional issues of mutual concern” during the three-day visit, Xi’s first to Russia since the war began in February last year.

China has presented itself as a potential mediator in the Ukraine conflict, a claim viewed with scepticism in Europe and the US because of Xi and Putin’s close relationship, sealed just before the hostilities erupted when the pair declared a “no limits” partnership.

Over the past year, Xi has maintained regular contact with Putin while Chinese state media have parroted Russian propaganda on the war, describing the situation as a “crisis” rather than an invasion.

The Chinese leader has not spoken to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the war began. But one person familiar with the matter in Beijing said Xi might also conduct a video conference with the Ukrainian president in the coming days.

China has yet to confirm such a plan but Beijing has stepped up ministerial-level contact with Ukraine in recent weeks. On Thursday, China’s foreign minister Qin Gang spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to call for peace talks.

“China upholds a fair and objective position in Ukraine and plays a constructive role in promoting talks for peace,” China’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

While China gave no further details on the agenda of the Russia state visit, the Kremlin said Putin and Xi would discuss “issues of developing relations of all-encompassing partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China”.

They would also engage in an “exchange of views in the context of deepening Russia-China co-operation in the international arena” and sign “a number of important bilateral documents”. It did not give details on the documents.

Putin and Xi would meet one-on-one on Monday, followed by an informal lunch, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The key China-Russia talks will be held on Tuesday.

Analysts said Beijing would use any call between Xi and Zelenskyy to try to support its claims that it was genuinely interested in a role as a possible peacemaker in the conflict.

China could…

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