Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed on Friday to deepen their bilateral cooperation against the backdrop of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Putin and Xi made no direct mention of the raging conflict in their opening remarks via videoconference, before going into private talks.
The pair hailed strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid what they called “geopolitical tensions” and a “difficult international situation”, with Putin expressing his wish to extend military collaboration.
“In the face of increasing geopolitical tensions, the significance of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is growing as a stabilsing factor,” he said.
The Russian leader said he expected Xi to visit Moscow in the spring.
Such a trip, he said, would “demonstrate to the whole world the strength of the Russian-Chinese ties on key issues, [and] will become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations”.
Xi, in turn, said through a translator that “in the face of a difficult and far from straightforward international situation” Beijing was ready “to increase strategic cooperation with Russia".
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV described the events in Ukraine as a “crisis".
The term marked a departure from China’s usual references to the “Ukraine situation”, and the change may reflect growing Chinese concern about the direction of the conflict.
Ties between the two countries have grown stronger since Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on 24 Febuary. Just last week, Moscow and Beijing held joint naval drills in the East China Sea.
China has pointedly refused to criticise Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, blaming the US and NATO for provoking the Kremlin, and has blasted the punishing sanctions imposed on Russia.
Russia, in turn, has strongly backed China amid the tensions with the US over Taiwan.
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