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Putin to welcome China’s Xi to Moscow at critical time

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has high hopes for a visit to Moscow by his Chinese counterpart and “good friend” Xi Jinping.

CHINA RUSSIA DIPLOMACY Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow.
March 20, 2023
By Mark Trevelyan
20 March 2023

Three days after being accused by an international tribunal of war crimes in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be looking more than ever for a show of solidarity from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping when he welcomes him to Moscow.

Xi will be the first world leader to shake Putin’s hand since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader on Friday over the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia since the start of the war.

Russia will present Xi’s trip on Monday – his first since securing an unprecedented third term this month – as evidence that it has a powerful friend prepared to stand with it against a hostile West that it says is trying in vain to isolate and defeat it.

Neither Moscow nor Beijing are members of the ICC, whose action the Kremlin said was outrageous but legally void. But by making Putin a wanted man in 123 countries virtually on the eve of Xi’s trip, the court has shone an awkward spotlight on a meeting that was already delicate for the Chinese leader.

In an article for a Chinese newspaper, published on the Kremlin website late on Sunday, Putin said he had high hopes for the visit by his “good old friend” Xi, with whom he signed a “no limits” strategic partnership last year.

He also welcomed China’s willingness to mediate in the conflict.

“We are grateful for the balanced line of (China) in connection with the events taking place in Ukraine, for understanding their background and true causes. We welcome China’s willingness to play a constructive role in resolving the crisis,” Putin said.

China last month published a 12-point paper calling for dialogue and a settlement in Ukraine, but it contained only general statements and no concrete proposal for how the year-long war might end.

Ukraine cautiously welcomed the Chinese proposal but says any settlement would require Russia to withdraw from all the territory it has seized, including the Crimean peninsula it annexed in 2014.

The US has reacted with extreme scepticism to China’s involvement, given its refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion.

White House spokesman John Kirby told Fox News on Sunday that any call by Putin and Xi for a ceasefire now would be unacceptable because it would just “ratify Russia’s conquest to date”.

“All that’s going to do is give Mr Putin more time to re-fit, re-train, re-man, and try for renewed offensives at a time of his choosing,” he said.

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