Chinese leader Xi Jinping heads to Moscow next week to meet President Vladimir Putin, his first visit to Russia since Putin launched his devastating invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
The visit is seen as a strong show of Beijing’s support for Moscow in Western capitals, as leaders grow increasingly wary of the two countries’ deepening partnership as war rages in Europe.
It will also be Xi’s first overseas trip since he secured an unprecedented third term as president at the annual meeting of China’s legislature last week.
The face-to-face confrontation was revealed on Friday by statements from both Beijing and the Kremlin.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the visit will take place from Monday to Wednesday at Putin’s invitation and confirmed that the war in Ukraine will be an essential part of the talks.
“China’s proposal boils down to one sentence: urging peace and promoting talks,” said Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesman.
The Kremlin said the two leaders would discuss “current issues related to the further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China.”
“It is also planned to exchange views in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena,” the Kremlin added. “A number of important bilateral documents will be signed.”
The Kremlin also released the schedule of planned meetings between Xi and Putin. The two leaders will begin Monday with a one-on-one meeting followed by an “informal lunch,” with negotiations scheduled for Tuesday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
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The visit comes as China tries to present itself as a neutral peace broker on Ukraine, including the recent issuance of a position paper calling for a political settlement to the crisis.
On Thursday, China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, by phone to call for peace talks. Kuleba said on Twitter that the two discussed “the importance of the principle of territorial integrity”.
But the mediator’s claim has been met with skepticism by Western leaders, who point to China’s refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict and growing ties with Russia.
Xi has spoken to Putin several times since the invasion—both physically and in person, but not a single phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Xi and Putin declared their “borderless” friendship in February last year, when the Russian leader visited Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
And under Xi, China has refused to condemn the Russian invasion — or even refer to it as such, instead blaming NATO for fomenting the conflict while amplifying Kremlin misinformation.
It also provided diplomatic support to Moscow Strengthening economic and military relations By boosting trade and conducting frequent joint military exercises.
Western officials in recent weeks have begun publicly raising concerns that China may be considering providing lethal military assistance to Russia, an accusation Beijing has denied.
A report obtained by CNN shows that Russia is getting military support from China
Last month, Putin hosted China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Moscow just days before the anniversary of the Kremlin’s all-out invasion of Ukraine.
Putin told Wang that relations between his country and China are “reaching new stages,” while Wang vowed to “strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership.”
Putin and Xi last held a virtual meeting in December, with the Russian president calling relations between the two countries “the best in history,” saying they could “withstand all tests.”
The two leaders share deep suspicion and hostility toward the United States, which they believe is bent on keeping China and Russia in check. They also share a vision of a new world order – one that better suits the interests of their countries and is no longer dominated by the West.
They have also forged a close personal relationship, with Xi calling Putin his “best friend” in 2019. Xi has met Putin in person 39 times since becoming China’s leader, most recently in September during a summit in Central Asia.
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