Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday, in an apparent show of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin amid rising East-West tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine is expected to dominate discussions.
China has sought to project itself as neutral in the conflict even as in 2022 Beijing declared it had “unlimited” friendship with Russia and refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion.
The meeting between the leaders was announced by the two countries on Friday.
China has said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected, while condemning Western sanctions and accusing NATO and the United States of provoking Russia into military action.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing was concerned the year-old conflict was spiraling out of control and called for talks on a political solution with Moscow.
China has “always maintained an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, is committed to promoting peace and advancing negotiations, and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks,” Qin said.
Kuleba later tweeted that he and Qin “discussed the importance of the principle of territorial integrity.”
“I underlined the importance of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s) peace formula for ending aggression and restoring a just peace in Ukraine,” wrote Kuleba, who spoke the same day with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a daily press briefing on Friday that Xi “will have an in-depth exchange of views with President Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of concern. cooperation, will promote strategic cooperation and practical cooperation between the two countries and give new impetus to the development of bilateral relations.
“At present, the world is entering a new period of turbulence and reform with the accelerated evolution of the changes of the century. As permanent members of the UN Security Council and important major countries, the significance and impact of China-Russia relations go far beyond the bilateral sphere,” he added.
The trip comes after the downing of a US drone over the Black Sea following an encounter with Russian fighter jets, which has brought the two countries closer to direct conflict since the invasion of Iran. Ukraine by Moscow a year ago.
The Kremlin also announced Xi’s visit on Friday, saying it will take place “at the invitation of Vladimir Putin.”
Xi and Putin will discuss “issues of the further development of a comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China”, as well as an exchange of views “in the context of deepening Russian-Russian cooperation”. China on the international scene,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
The two leaders will also sign “important bilateral documents”, the statement read.
Putin invited Xi to visit Russia during a video conference the two men held in late December. The visit, Putin said, could “demonstrate to the whole world the strength of Russian-Chinese ties” and “become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations”.