Xi Jinping to meet Putin in Russia for first time since Ukraine invasion

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) will exchange opinions on major international and regional issues with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during his visit to Russia. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/MOSCOW - China’s President Xi Jinping will travel to Russia on a state visit next week, his first trip to Russia since it invaded Ukraine.

Mr Xi will exchange opinions on major international and regional issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit from March 20 to 22, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday. It will be his first overseas trip since he won a third term as president earlier this month.

The Kremlin said Mr Putin would have a one-to-one meeting with Mr Xi in Moscow on Monday. They will hold further negotiations on Tuesday, followed by a statement to the press.

“During the talks, they will discuss topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China,” the Kremlin said.

“A number of important bilateral documents will be signed,” it added.

The objective of the visit is to further deepen bilateral trust, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing. He added that Mr Xi’s visit was in part to promote “peace”, although he made no explicit mention of the Ukraine war.

During the trip, Mr Xi is expected to discuss China’s recently released 12-point blueprint for ending the war in Ukraine, a document dismissed by most Western governments.

The criticism of the plan was more muted from Ukraine, which has tried to avoid alienating Beijing since the start of the war on 24 February 2022.

Ukraine took issue with China’s proposals for not stating that Russia should withdraw behind borders in place since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, though it later said it was open to “parts of the plan”.

China’s offer to broker peace in Ukraine has been met with scepticism in the West, given Beijing’s diplomatic support for Russia.

Mr Xi will hold a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky following his Russia visit, according to some media reports. Beijing has not confirmed the call.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke on Thursday with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba about bilateral ties and the invasion.

A possible call between Mr Xi and President Joe Biden is also on the cards.

Mr Xi last visited Russia in mid-2019, while Mr Putin visited Beijing in 2022 to attend the opening of the Winter Olympics on Feb 4. At that meeting, the two leaders agreed to a “no limits” friendship and signed a series of long-term energy supply deals.

The two then met in September at the Shanghai Cooperation Forum, where Mr Putin said he understands Beijing’s “questions and concerns” about his invasion of Ukraine, a rare admission of tensions between the diplomatic allies.

The two sides have since continued to reaffirm the strength of their ties. Trade between the two countries has soared since the invasion, and China is Russia’s biggest buyer of oil, a key source of revenue for Moscow. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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