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Putin Hosts Xi for Second Day of Talks After Welcoming China's Ukraine Peace Plan


Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2023.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2023.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a second day of talks Tuesday, after Putin welcomed Beijing's peace plan to resolve Russia's war against Ukraine and signaled to Western leaders the extent of what they call their "limitless" friendship.

Xi said Tuesday he invited Putin to visit China later this year.

In opening remarks before their closed-door talks Monday, Putin said Russia was "slightly envious" of the rapid development of China in recent decades that has boosted it to become the world's second-largest economy behind the United States.

Russian news agencies later reported that the two leaders talked for nearly four-and-a-half hours before breaking for dinner, where Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said Putin would likely give Xi a “detailed explanation” of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Russia's Putin holds talks with China's Xi in Moscow
Russia's Putin holds talks with China's Xi in Moscow

Putin said Monday he viewed the Beijing peace plan with respect.

But China’s proposal has little chance of enactment as proposed because it does not meet key demands from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — namely, that Russia withdraw from Ukraine to honor its internationally recognized borders, including the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow illegally annexed in 2014 and the eastern Ukrainian regions Russian forces invaded in February of last year.

The Chinese leader's three-day visit to Moscow gives both Xi and Putin a public show of partnership in opposing what both see as American domination of global affairs. Their growing alliance also facilitates economic deals, such as shipment of Russian oil and natural gas to China at a time when the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed widespread sanctions to curb Russia's foreign business transactions in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Washington Monday that any proposal for Ukraine that allows Russian forces to remain in the country would merely let Moscow regain its strength to continue its offensive.

"Calling for a cease-fire that does not include the removal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory would effectively be supporting the ratification of Russian conquest," he said.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby called on Xi "to press President Putin directly on the need to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Ahead of Xi's visit, in an article published in the Chinese People's Daily newspaper, Putin described the visit as a "landmark event" that "reaffirms the special nature of the Russia-China partnership."

The Russian leader specifically said the meeting sent a message to Washington that the two countries aren't prepared to accept attempts to weaken them.

"The U.S. policy of simultaneously deterring Russia and China, as well as all those who do not bend to the American diktat, is getting ever fiercer and more aggressive," he wrote.

The Chinese leader's trip to Moscow came just days after the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged Putin with the illegal deportation of thousands of children from Ukraine to Russia. Russia has ignored the allegations as "null and void."

It was not immediately clear what China hoped to gain from Xi's visit. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Xi's trip was a "journey of friendship, cooperation and peace."

On the war, Wang said, "China will uphold its objective and fair position on the Ukrainian crisis and play a constructive role in promoting peace talks."

The spokesperson added, "President Xi will have an in-depth exchange of views with President Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern."

Wang said that Xi aims to "promote strategic coordination and practical cooperation between the two countries and inject new impetus into the development of bilateral relations."

While trying to broker an end to the war in Ukraine, Beijing has not supplied weapons to Moscow, nor has it condemned the invasion. At the same time, it has accused NATO and the United States of provoking Putin's attack on Ukraine.

The U.S. has strongly rejected Beijing's call for a cease-fire, which it says would leave in place Moscow's territorial gains in eastern Ukraine.

"The first and main point is the capitulation or withdrawal of the Russian occupation troops from the territory of Ukraine in accordance with the norms of international law and the U.N. Charter," Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said Monday on Twitter.

On Monday, Xi wrote in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a Russian state-run daily publication, that the Chinese peace proposal represents "as much as possible the unity of the world community's views," according to an English translation of the article issued by the Chinese Mission to the United Nations.

"The document serves as a constructive factor in neutralizing the consequences of the crisis and promoting a political settlement," Xi said. "Complex problems do not have simple solutions."

White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara and Paris Huang of VOA's Mandarin service contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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