China asked Russia to delay Ukraine invasion until after Winter Olympics, say US officials

China asked Russia to delay the invasion of Ukraine until after the Winter Olympics in Beijing finished, say US officials.

Senior Chinese officials made the request to their Russian counterparts in early February, according to senior Biden administration officials and a European official.

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The information was collected by a Western intelligence service ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and was considered to be credible, according to The New York Times.

It was then passed between US officials and their counterparts in allied countries as Western governments tried to work out if Russia would invade its neighbour.

One official told the newspaper that the intelligence report did not mean that conversations had taken place directly between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Mr Putin, who met in Beijing on 4 February before the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

The closing ceremony was held on 20 February, and on 21 February Russia ordered more troops into an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia insurgents.

Mr Putin then ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of 24 February, with American and European officials telling the newspaper they found it hard to believe the timing was a coincidence.

Beijing may have been sensitive to the timing of the invasion because Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008 as China hosted the summer Olympics.

“These claims are speculation without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China,” Liu Pengyu, the Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington told The New York Times.

The Independent has reached out to the Chinese embassy for comment.

A member of the civil defence mans a checkpoint in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022 (AP)
A member of the civil defence mans a checkpoint in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022 (AP)

American intelligence officials noted that Russian troops were making final preparations for combat around 10 February.

And White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, warned on 11 February that an attack could come before the end of the Olympics.

Since the invasion began, China has sided with Russia, criticising sanctions placed on Moscow and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has refused to call Moscow’s actions an “invasion.”