China’s Xi meets with Putin as Beijing seeks bolder global role

KIEV, Ukraine — Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to visit Moscow next week and offer a major diplomatic deal to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the same day the International Criminal Court announced it intends to try the Russian leader for alleged war crimes to give boost.

Xi’s visit was the latest sign of Beijing’s emboldened diplomatic ambitions and came amid rising East-West tensions over the war in Ukraine, now in its 13th month.

The US said on Friday it would oppose any efforts by China at the meeting to propose a ceasefire in Ukraine as “ratification of Russian conquest”.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby encouraged Xi to reach out to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his country’s perspective on the war and to avoid “unilateral” proposals.

China has tried to present itself as neutral in the conflict, although it has refused to condemn Moscow’s aggression and declared last year that it has a “boundless” friendship with Russia. Beijing has denounced Western sanctions against Moscow and accused NATO and the United States of provoking Putin’s military action.

Throughout the conflict, China has stated that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected. However, it remains unclear whether it sympathizes with Moscow’s claims to confiscate Ukrainian territory.

Russian troops have remained bogged down in a battle of attrition now centered on these areas in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

Xi’s visit would be his first meeting with Putin since September, when they met on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan. Earlier, Putin attended the opening of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and met with Xi shortly before sending troops to Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday Putin and Xi would hold one-on-one meetings at an informal dinner on Monday. Broader talks with officials from both countries on a range of issues are scheduled for Tuesday.

Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov hinted that the talks could bring new approaches to the fighting in Ukraine. “I am sure that our leader and the Chinese leader will share their assessments of the situation there,” he said. “We’ll see what ideas come up after that.”

Kyiv doesn’t just want Russia to withdraw from territories it has held since its full-scale invasion in February 2022. Zelenskyy has demanded that Russia also withdraw from the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, denounced as illegal by most parts of the world.

But Putin has shown no intention of abandoning the Kremlin’s achievements. Instead, on Friday he stressed the importance of holding Crimea.

“Obviously, security issues are now the top priority for Crimea and Sevastopol,” he said, referring to Crimea’s largest city. “We will do whatever is necessary to ward off threats.”

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang addressed his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and said Beijing was worried the war could spiral out of control and was urging talks on a political settlement with Moscow.

China has “always taken an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, 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.” Ukraine has listed Russia’s withdrawal from the occupied territories as the most important condition for peace.

“I underscored the importance of (Zelenskyy’s) peace formula in ending aggression and restoring a just peace in Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote, speaking with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the same day.

China last month called for a ceasefire and peace talks between Kiev and Moscow. Zelenskyi cautiously welcomed Beijing’s involvement, but the overture seemed to go no further.

Yurii Poita, head of the Asia section of the Kiev-based New Geopolitics Research Network, believes the Ukrainian government supports China’s involvement because it is unwilling to make another powerful enemy.

“Don’t devote yourself to the dragon when you’re fighting a bear,” Poita told The Associated Press.

Beijing’s apparently deeper dive into Ukraine issues follows its success last week in brokering talks between Iran and its main Middle Eastern rival, Saudi Arabia. These two countries agreed to restore diplomatic ties after years of tension.

The deal gave China a leading role in Middle East politics, a role previously reserved for longtime global heavyweights like the US

Against this backdrop, Xi urged China to play a greater role in managing global affairs.

Washington has made Western military and diplomatic efforts against Putin.

On Friday, Kirby told reporters, “A truce is now again effectively the ratification of Russian conquest.” It would “indeed recognize Russia’s achievements and its attempt to conquer its neighbor’s territory by force, which would allow Russian forces to remain sovereign.” to occupy Ukrainian territory”.

Russia could use a ceasefire to regroup “so it can resume attacks on Ukraine at a time of its choosing,” he warned.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Britain would welcome any serious effort by China aimed at “restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty”.

“Any peace deal that is not based on Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-determination is not a peace deal at all,” Sunak spokesman Jamie Davies said.

Nataliia Butyrska, a Ukrainian political scientist, said Beijing’s potential peacemaking role may be clouded by its stance on territorial integrity.

“China doesn’t make a clear distinction between aggressor and victim” in Ukraine, she told The AP.

China has its own territorial problems, with Taiwan it claims must be seized by force if necessary.

Tensions between the US and Russia escalated further this week with the destruction of a US drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday after an encounter with Russian warplanes, although it also prompted the first talks between the countries’ defense and military chiefs since October .

Putin invited Xi to visit Russia during a video conference in late December. The visit, Putin said, could “demonstrate the strength of Russian-Chinese relations to the whole world” and “become the most important political event of the year in bilateral relations.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday that Xi and Putin would “discuss bilateral ties and important international and regional issues of common concern…”.

“At present, with the accelerated development of the changes of the century, the world is entering a new period of turbulence and reform,” he added Relations with Russia go well beyond the bilateral sphere.”

The arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused Putin of involvement in kidnapping children from Ukraine to Russia. It also issued an arrest warrant for its Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova.

The court does not have its own police force to enforce arrest warrants, and the Kremlin has said it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.


Hanna Arhirova in Kiev, Ukraine contributed to this story.


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