Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Russia next week for talks with President Vladimir Putin, the two countries announced on Friday, as Beijing touts a plan to end Ukraine’s bloody war that has been warmly welcomed by both sides.
Xi’s March 20-22 trip comes after China last month published a 12-point plan for “a political resolution of the Ukrainian crisis,” after a senior Chinese diplomat on Thursday called for negotiations in a call with Ukraine’s foreign minister.
The plan calls for the protection of civilians and for Russia and Ukraine to respect each other’s sovereignty.
However, the United States and NATO have said Beijing’s efforts to mediate are not credible, as it has refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Xi’s visit to Russia — his first in nearly four years — is partly to promote “peace,” though he made no explicit mention of the war in Ukraine.
Views will also be exchanged on major regional and international issues, bilateral confidence will be strengthened and economic partnership will be deepened.
“WITHOUT LIMITS” PARTNERSHIP
The Kremlin said in a statement that Xi and Putin would discuss “topical issues on the development of global partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China.” The statement also does not mention Ukraine.
According to some media, Xi will hold a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodímir Zelenskiy after his visit to Russia. Beijing has not confirmed the call.
China and Russia announced a “no-holds-barred” partnership in February 2022, when Putin visited Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics, days before he was to send tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine, triggering the biggest conflict seen in Europe since World War II.
Since then, Beijing and Moscow have continued to reaffirm the strength of their ties. Bilateral trade has soared since the invasion and China is the largest buyer of petroleum of Russia, a key source of income for Moscow.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions have fled their homes in Ukraine since the invasion and there is currently no sign that either side is actively seeking an end to the conflict.
Ukraine has taken issue with Beijing’s proposals not to state that Russia should withdraw behind borders in place since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, though it later said it was open to “parts of the plan.”
Russia welcomed Beijing’s initiative and said it would make a “nuanced study” of the plan, but has also said it sees no sign of a peaceful resolution for now.
Moscow says Ukraine must accept its annexation of four regions in the east and south of the country along with the loss of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that was forcibly annexed in 2014.
Russia claims its actions in Ukraine are a defensive response to a hostile and aggressive West, while Kiev and its Western allies say they represent an imperialist land grab.