An informal meeting took place between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in the Kremlin, reports Interfax.
During the public part of the meeting, Putin congratulated the Chinese leader on his reelection and flattered him by saying that Russia is “slightly envious” of China’s rapid economic development.
Putin said that he has reviewed Peking’s proposals “for regulating the acute crisis in Ukraine,” adding that the Russian side stands ready to talk and negotiate.
Xi Jinping, in turn, called Putin a “dear friend,” expressing confidence that Russians would support his “good initiatives.” Although these remarks were made in the context of Russia’s forthcoming 2024 presidential election, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later denied that Xi Jinping was talking about Putin running for president.
According to Yuri Ushakov, the Russian president’s assistant for foreign policy, the Russian side had great hopes for the informal behind-the-scenes discussion between the two leaders, planned to continue over an informal dinner.
Officially, the talks between Russia and China are scheduled for 3 p.m. on March 21. Xi Jinping’s state visit will continue until March 22.
Days before the Chinese leader’s arrival in Moscow, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, a member of his administration. Both are being charged with complicity in war crimes committed in Ukraine.
It was earlier reported that, Putin acknowledges China’s concerns over Ukraine since first meeting after invasion
The Chinese leader Xi Jinping has expressed concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, their first since the Kremlin ordered the invasion of its neighbor.
The meeting in Uzbekistan during a regional conference on September 15 was aimed primarily at solidifying the growing relationship between the two countries as both battle rising tensions with the West.
In the face of crippling international sanctions over the Ukraine invasion, Putin has looked to strengthen ties with Beijing, which has avoided criticizing Moscow for the war.
Beijing’s support is widely seen as essential for Moscow, which needs markets for its energy exports and sources to import high-tech goods.
“We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis,” Putin told Xi at their first meeting since the war began.
“We understand your questions and concern about this,” Putin said.
Xi called Putin “my dear and old friend” and said at the beginning of the talks that his country, along with Russia, is ready to play a leading role in bringing the world to the stable development path. He did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor was the topic noted in a readout after the meeting.
“Facing unprecedented colossal changes of our times on the global level, we are ready to show with the Russian colleagues an example of a responsible world power and play a leading role in bringing the rapidly changing world to the path of the stable and positive development,” Xi said.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said China should reject Russia’s invasion.
“The whole world should be lined up against what Mr. Putin is doing,” Kirby told CNN. “This is not the time for any kind of business as usual with Mr. Putin given what he’s done inside Ukraine.”
He noted that the Chinese “haven’t weighed in to violate the sanctions” and also haven’t “weighed in to materially support Mr. Putin.”
Kirby said that the meeting was more important for the Russian president, who he said is “very much under strain and stress in Ukraine” amid military setbacks and it is thus fitting that Putin is trying to “cozy up to Beijing.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later told reporters that the talks behind closed doors had been excellent. They were “very businesslike and concrete, involving a discussion of tasks for various ministries and agencies,” he said.
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In their previous meeting just three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Putin and Xi signed a “no limits” friendship pact.
In a sign of that agreement, Putin expressed support for China on Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province.
“We firmly and by our deeds stick to the principle of one China. We condemn the provocations by the U.S. and its allies in the Taiwan Strait,” Putin said.
Putin expressed hope that in the face of international sanctions, the volume of trade between China and Russia will reach “new record levels,” possibly as much as $200 billion annually.
Before arriving to Samarkand for the summit, Xi, on his first trip abroad since the COVID-19 pandemic, visited Kazakhstan on September 14.
Putin also separately met on the conference’s sidelines with leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Pakistan.