Xi Jinping hailed his landmark visit to Moscow Monday as giving “new momentum” to Chinese-Russian ties ahead of talks with Vladimir Putin on Beijing’s proposals to stop the fighting in Ukraine.
The summit between the Russian president and the Chinese leader comes as China seeks to portray itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict.
Washington has accused Beijing of mulling arms exports to Moscow – claims China has vociferously denied.
Xi’s three-day trip also serves as a show of support for internationally isolated Putin, just days after a war crimes tribunal issued a warrant for his arrest over accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.
Landing at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, Xi was greeted by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko on a red carpet as a military brass band played the countries’ anthems, Russian state media showed.
“I am confident the visit will be fruitful and give new momentum to the healthy and stable development of Chinese-Russian relations,” Xi was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying shortly after landing.
“In a world of volatility and transformation, China will continue to work with Russia to safeguard the international system with the UN at its core,” he said.
Xi described China and Russia as “good neighbours” and “reliable partners” and said the two would work together to defend “true multilateralism”.
– ‘Constructive role’ –
The two leaders are due to discuss China’s 12-point position paper on the Ukraine conflict, which includes a call for dialogue and respect for all countries’ territorial sovereignty.
“One way or another, issues raised in (Beijing’s) plan for Ukraine will be touched upon during the negotiations. Comprehensive explanations will be given by President Putin” of the Russian position, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Putin and Xi are set to have an “informal” one-on-one meeting and dinner later Monday before talks on Tuesday, Putin’s top foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian news agencies.
Putin has welcomed Beijing’s statements on Ukraine as being indicative of a willingness to play a “constructive role” in ending the conflict.
But Kyiv on Monday reiterated calls for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine ahead of Xi’s arrival.
“The formula for the successful implementation of China’s ‘Peace Plan’. The first and foremost point is the surrender or withdrawal of Russian occupation forces from (Ukrainian territory) in accordance with international law and the UN Charter,” the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov, wrote on Twitter.
A day before Xi’s arrival, a defiant Putin went to the Russian-held Ukrainian city of Mariupol – his first visit to territory captured from Kyiv since Moscow’s forces pushed across the border in February 2022.
Xi’s visit also comes just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin on the accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.