Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Tuesday signed a new strategic partnership between their countries and called for a diplomatic solution to Moscow’s war against Ukraine, but Putin said he sees no indication that the Kyiv government and its Western allies are ready for peace talks.
After two days of talks with Xi at the Kremlin, Putin accused the United States and Western countries of fighting “to the last Ukrainian,” but praised what he said was China’s “neutral position” on the war.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Beijing and Moscow believe that the United Nations Charter “must be observed and international law must be respected,” but made no demand that Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine or honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.
Putin called his talks with Xi “open and friendly,” discussions aimed at cementing their “no limits” partnership agreed to in early 2022, less than three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
China recently proposed a 12-point plan calling for a de-escalation and eventual cease-fire in Ukraine, which the West has rejected because it would lock in place Russian territorial gains its illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and more land seized by Russia in eastern Ukraine during its 13-month invasion.
Putin said, "We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv. However, so far, we see no such readiness from their side.”
Kyiv has welcomed Beijing’s diplomatic overture but says that Russia must first withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Fighting has mostly stalemated in eastern Ukraine along the main battlefront line.
The series of documents Putin and Xi signed called for "strategic cooperation" between the two countries, including a planned pipeline shipping Russian natural gas to China.
“I am convinced that our multi-faceted cooperation will continue to develop for the good of the peoples of our countries," Putin said in televised remarks. He said Moscow was ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia in protest over the invasion of Ukraine.
Xi said 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.
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 the 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."
Some material in this report came from Reuters.