Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week

Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow next week to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, his first official visit to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing, which has strengthened its ties with Moscow in recent years in general opposition to the West, presents itself as a neutral party in the conflict in Ukraine.

“At the invitation of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The ministry said it would be a “movement for friendship and peace”.

Chinese diplomatic spokesman Wang Wenbin said Xi Jinping would have “in-depth exchanges of views with President Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common interest.”

“Changes unseen in a century are taking place now, and the world has entered a new turbulent period,” Wang said at a regular press briefing.

The Kremlin quickly confirmed the visit.

In a statement, the Russian president said the two leaders would “discuss deepening the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China” especially “on the international scene”, adding that “important bilateral documents will be signed”.

– “Unlimited” friendship –

Beijing-Moscow relations were volatile during the Cold War, but in recent decades the two neighbors have come together to form a common front in the face of US influence.

Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 12, 2023 (AFP/Archive – NOEL SALIS)

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan in September.

During this first meeting since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, they showed willingness to support each other amid the crisis and strengthen their ties with Western countries.

The Russian President went to Beijing a few months ago for the Winter Olympics. The two leaders then declared their “boundless” friendship. A few days later, Vladimir Putin unleashed his troops against Ukraine.

The announcement of Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia comes a day after a telephone conversation between the Chinese and Ukrainian foreign ministers.

Chinese minister Qin Gang said, “China fears the crisis will worsen and get out of control,” according to a statement released by his ministry.

“He hopes that all parties will remain calm, exercise restraint, resume peace talks as soon as possible and return to the path of political settlement.”

China last month issued a 12-point document urging Moscow and Kiev to hold peace talks.

– “China respects” –

The text also opposes any resort to nuclear weapons and calls for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries – meaning Ukraine, whose territory is under Russian control.

Western countries greeted the document with caution because China never publicly condemned Russia.

“The question is whether (China) is really stepping up its efforts to play a peacekeeping role […] “The content will depend on what she proposes during her meetings with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders,” Ja-ian Chong, an expert on Chinese foreign policy at the National University of Singapore, told AFP.

Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 15, 2023 (Sputnik/AFP - Pavel Bednyakov)
Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 15, 2023 (Sputnik/AFP – Pavel Bednyakov)

Since the beginning of the conflict, the Chinese President has also never spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

But according to the American daily The Wall Street Journal, talks can take place after Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow.

Last month, the President of Ukraine expressed a desire to have exchanges with his Chinese counterpart.

“I intend to meet with Xi Jinping. This will be important for global security. China respects territorial integrity and must do everything to ensure that Russia leaves Ukraine’s territory,” Zelensky said.


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