China’s Xi welcomes Putin as Moscow gains ground in Ukraine

The authoritarian leaders aim to underscore their unity during the two-day state visit.

Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing for a two-day visit, with Chinese state media calling the Russian president an “old friend”.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping welcomed Russia’s number one with full military honours at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of China’s capital.

The trip – underscoring the close ties between the two autocratic leaders – comes as Moscow intensifies its offensive in Ukraine, with Ukrainian troops pulling back in Kharkiv on Wednesday.

Xi said the two countries were deepening their relationship as “good neighbours, good friends, good partners,” according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. 

Beijing has emerged as a lifeline for Moscow as Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine have cut much of its access to international trade. 

In July 2023, a US intelligence report alleged China had “probably” provided Moscow with key technology, including drones and fighter jet parts, it was using to wage war in Ukraine.

A Russian and Chinese national flag is displayed at Tiananmen Gate in honor of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Beijing.
A Russian and Chinese national flag is displayed at Tiananmen Gate in honor of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Beijing.Andy Wong/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Before arriving in Beijing, Putin said in an interview with Chinese media that the Kremlin is prepared to negotiate over the conflict in Ukraine. 

“We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine, but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours,” the Russian leader was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

He also praised China for its initiatives aimed at “resolving the crisis in Ukraine”.

“Unfortunately, neither Ukraine nor its Western patrons support these initiatives,” claimed Putin. “They are not ready to engage in an equal, honest and open dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said any negotiations must include a restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees for Kyiv.

China claims to take a neutral position in the conflict, though experts previously told Euronews its stance is complicated, pushed and pulled in competing directions.

Beijing has backed Moscow’s contentious claim that Russia was provoked into attacking Ukraine by the West, despite Putin’s saying he wants to restore Russia’s century-old borders as the reason for his assault.

In their meeting after dawn on Thursday, China’s number one congratulated Putin on securing a fifth term in office.

Putin faced no credible opposition in the presidential race, and, like Xi, has not laid out any plans for any potential successors.

Russia’s forces have pressed an offensive in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region that began last week, marking the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began in 2022

Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from positions in villages around Kharkiv, meanwhile almost 8,000 people have fled their homes.

(Source: Euronews)