China’s Xi plans to talk to Zelensky, meet Putin next week

Plans for a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin come as China has been offering to broker peace in Ukraine. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to travel to Russia to meet his counterpart Vladimir Putin and also speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky via a video call as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.

The meetings with Mr Zelensky and Mr Putin come as China has been offering to broker peace in Ukraine, an effort that has been met with scepticism in the West, given China’s diplomatic support for Russia.

Mr Xi is not known to have spoken with Mr Zelensky since Russian troops crossed into Ukraine’s borders in February 2022.

But he has engaged with Mr Putin several times through video calls and face-to-face meetings since the war unfolded.

Russia’s Tass news agency reported on Jan 30 that Mr Putin had invited Mr Xi to visit in the spring.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that a visit to Moscow could take place in April or early May.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the possibility of Mr Xi going to Moscow.

When asked about Mr Xi’s reported visit, the Kremlin said it had nothing to say on the matter. 

“As a rule, announcements of official foreign visits are coordinated synchronously by mutual agreement of the parties,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow. “When there is such readiness, we will let you know.”

No other details were immediately available.

The sources briefed on the matter declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the issue.

In February, Mr Putin hosted China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on a visit to Moscow. One source said that Mr Wang’s trip to Moscow was to help prepare for Mr Xi’s visit.

China and Russia struck a “no limits” partnership in February 2022, weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, and the two sides have continued to reaffirm the strength of their ties.

Mr Xi has met Mr Putin in person 39 times since becoming President, most recently in September during a summit in central Asia. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Xi is considering visiting other European countries as part of his trip to Russia, though his full itinerary has yet to be confirmed.

The overseas trip would mark Mr Xi’s first after he secured an unprecedented third term as China’s head of state.

It comes as the 69-year-old leader seeks to burnish his status as a global statesman and navigate escalating competition with the US and its allies. REUTERS

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