Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping holds talks as Russia again bombards Ukraine with missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, seen onscreen, via a video conference at the Kremlin (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, seen onscreen, via a video conference at the Kremlin (AP)

Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have vowed to deepen their cooperation - as Russia bombarded Ukraine with another night of drone and rocket attacks.

The leaders did not directly mention Ukraine, where Moscow has been waging a 10-month war, as they met via video conference on Friday.

But they hailed strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid what they called “geopolitical tensions” and a “difficult international situation”.

“In the face of increasing geopolitical tensions, the significance of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is growing as a stabilising factor,” said Russian President Putin, who invited Xi to visit Moscow in the spring.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin during talks with China's President Xi Jinping on Friday (via REUTERS)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin during talks with China's President Xi Jinping on Friday (via REUTERS)

Putin noted that military cooperation has a “special place” in the relationship between their countries. He said the Kremlin aimed to “strengthen the cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and China”.

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, provide each other with development opportunities, be global partners for the benefit of the peoples of our countries and in the interests of stability around the world”.

It came as Russia subjected Ukraine to a fresh barrage of missile attacks on power stations and other vital infrastructure on Thursday - the biggest of its kind in weeks.

Four civilians were killed during the onslaught, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its Friday morning update that Russian forces had unleashed a total of 85 missiles and 35 airstrikes on Ukrainian targets in the previous 24 hours.

A local resident, 82, stands near her house which was destroyed by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kherson, on December 29 (REUTERS)
A local resident, 82, stands near her house which was destroyed by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kherson, on December 29 (REUTERS)

Russia also launched 63 attacks from multiple launch rocket systems, the military report said.

Following the first waves of missiles on Thursday morning, Russian forces attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made drones on Thursday night and early Friday, all of which were shot down, the Ukrainian air force said.

Some were aimed at Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Friday. Of seven kamikaze drones launched against the Ukrainian capital, two were shot down on the approach to the city and five over Kyiv itself, according to the mayor.

Further east, the Ukrainian military reported its forces shot down 10 attack drones in the central-eastern Dnipropetrovsk province and southeastern Zaporizhzhia provinces.

Workers repair high-voltage power lines damaged by recent missile strikes near Odessa on December 29 (AFP via Getty Images)
Workers repair high-voltage power lines damaged by recent missile strikes near Odessa on December 29 (AFP via Getty Images)

Almost 30 Russian shells were fired at Marhanets in Dnipropetrovsk province on Thursday night, according to regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko. Marhanets is located directly across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station.

In its report on the meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Xi, 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.

“Xi Jinping emphasised that China has noted that Russia has never refused to resolve the conflict through diplomatic negotiations, for which it (China) expresses its appreciation,” CCTV reported.

 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
(SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Ties between Moscow and Beijing have grown stronger since Mr Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on February 24. Last week Moscow and Beijing held joint naval drills in the East China Sea.

China, which has promised a “no limits” friendship with Russia, 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.