STORY: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping sought to cement their nations’ “no limits” partnership in a lengthy meeting in Moscow on Tuesday.
The two leaders discussed plans to ramp up Russian energy exports to China, hopes that Chinese firms would replace western businesses in Russia, and the Chinese leader’s proposed peace plan for the war in Ukraine.
Putin said Russia was satisfying what he called “the growing Chinese energy demands.” Xi thanked Putin for the invitation to Russia and said, “the cooperation in trade, investment, energy, culture, humanitarian and inter-regional areas is developing.”
Russian media reported the two men spoke for more than four hours on Monday and enjoyed a state dinner at the Kremlin, warmly praising each other as a “dear friend.” Xi’s visit is a boost to Putin as he struggles to make ground in the year-long invasion of Ukraine.
While China has sought to cast itself as a potential peace-maker in the conflict, Beijing’s proposed cease-fire has so far been largely dismissed in the West as a ploy to buy Putin time.
Ukrainian and Western officials fear a ceasefire would merely freeze the front lines, handing Russia an advantage following a series of setbacks since it launched its invasion in February last year.
In contrast with the face-to-face meetings in Moscow, Xi may only speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy by telephone, if at all.
But in a surprise visit pointedly coinciding with Xi’s Moscow talks, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday to deliver a message of solidarity and support for Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Xi’s visit, which comes after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin for alleged war crimes.
“That President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, and instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes.”
China has refrained from condemning Russia or referring to Moscow’s intervention in its neighbor as an “invasion”. It has also criticized Western sanctions on Russia.
Foreign policy analysts said while Putin would be looking for strong support from Xi over Ukraine, they doubted his Moscow visit would result in any direct military backing.
Washington has said in recent weeks it fears China might arm Russia, a plan Beijing has denied.