Russia and China forged closer ties Wednesday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying relations between the two countries had reached "new frontiers," even as the U.S. has expressed concern that Beijing could supply weapons to Moscow to help its war effort against Ukraine.
China has refused to criticize Russia's year-long invasion of Ukraine but has denied providing military support to Moscow's forces. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Beijing's representatives had already addressed the issue and "have, in fact, strongly denied it. There is nothing to add here."
But Putin welcomed China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, to the Kremlin, telling him that he looks forward to a visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping and that bilateral trade between the two countries could soon reach $200 billion a year, up from $185 billion last year.
"We await a visit of the president of the People's Republic of China to Russia, we have agreed on this," Putin told Wang. "Everything is progressing, developing. We are reaching new frontiers."
At the start of his talks with Wang, Putin hailed ties between the two countries. With escalating world tensions, Putin said, "cooperation between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation on the global arena is particularly important for stabilizing the international situation."
Wang, through an interpreter, told Putin that the two countries' relations were not aimed against any third party but would "not succumb to pressure from third parties" — a pointed jab at the United States after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Wang last weekend of unspecified consequences if China provided lethal support for Russia's war effort.
"Together we support multi-polarity and democratization in international relations," Wang told Putin. "This fully meets the course of time and history; it also meets the interests of the majority of countries."
Wang earlier met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, saying he looked forward to clinching new agreements during his visit to Moscow, although no details were disclosed. China is Russia's largest buyer of oil, one of the key sources of revenue funding Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, which hits the one-year mark on Friday.
After Blinken voiced U.S. fears of China helping to arm Russia, China rebuked Washington for its leadership of the Western alliance supporting Ukraine.
"No matter how the international situation changes, China has been and remains committed, together with Russia, to make efforts to preserve the positive trend in the development of relations between major powers," Wang told Lavrov.
Wang said he would work to "strengthen and deepen" relations between Moscow and Beijing, and said the relationship had "no limits."
Lavrov noted that "our ties have continued to develop dynamically, and despite high turbulence in the global arena we have shown the readiness to speak in defense of each other's interests."
Links between Washington and the other two capitals have been strained over the war in Ukraine, with U.S. President Joe Biden, in his visit to Ukraine and Poland this week, harshly attacking Putin's offensive. Biden also recently condemned Beijing for sending a spy balloon over the U.S. mainland in early February.
Meanwhile, Putin on Tuesday suspended Russia's participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with Washington.
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.