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Xi hosts Putin for Beijing talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor Shen Yiqin, second right, upon his arrive at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, May 16, 2024.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor Shen Yiqin, second right, upon his arrive at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, May 16, 2024.

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks Thursday in Beijing, the start of a two-day visit by the Russian leader.

Ahead of the trip, the Kremlin said Xi and Putin would "have a detailed discussion on the entire range of issues related to the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation and determine the new directions for further development of cooperation between Russia and China.”

The leaders were also expected to “also have a detailed exchange of opinions on the most acute international and regional issues," the Kremlin said.

Putin said in an interview with Chinese media Wednesday that Russia is ready to negotiate on the war in Ukraine.

Russia has "never refused to negotiate," China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Putin as saying. Russia seeks a "comprehensive, sustainable and just settlement of this conflict through peaceful means."

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has proposed a peace plan, and Switzerland is set to host peace talks next month, but Russia was not invited to the meetings. Ukraine is seeking a full withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, including from areas Russia claimed to annex in a move that was rejected by the international community.

Russia has intensified its attacks on the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine in the past week, forcing nearly 8,000 people to leave their homes.

China says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict. But it has economically, politically and rhetorically backed Russia and refuses to condemn Moscow’s offensive.

“I don't think Xi is going to be 100% supportive of Russia's continuing hostilities,” Lyle Morris, a senior fellow at Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis, told VOA. “I think Putin knows that. So, his hand is getting weaker.”

Putin said that China understands the origins of the crisis in Ukraine and has a sincere desire to stabilize the situation, according to Xinhua.

Just weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine in 2022, Xi and Putin signed a pledge declaring their “no-limits” bilateral partnership. Beijing has since become Moscow’s most reliable economic and diplomatic partner as Western nations have imposed strict economic sanctions in response to the invasion.

Putin “will be trying to make sure that China supports Russia in any sort of international negotiations or basically finds a way to get around U.S. sanctions,” William Pomeranz, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, said in an interview with VOA.

“China is becoming steadily more important” in Russia and China's relationship, Edward Lucas, senior adviser at the Center for European Policy Analysis, told VOA.

Putin’s “No. 1 issue is help on Ukraine,” he said. “He wants diplomatic help. He wants help with breaking sanctions. He would like more weapons.”

Lucas said Xi's interest is slightly different. Xi “doesn't want Russia to lose, but he also doesn't want Russia to escalate going up the nuclear ladder,” he said.

Putin’s trip to China is his first foreign visit since he was reelected in March for a fifth term in office. The trip is his second visit to China in six months.

He traveled to Beijing in October to attend a forum on China's Belt and Road Initiative, a project launched by Xi a decade ago to build global infrastructure and energy networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. VOA Mandarin Service reporter John Xie and VOA Ukrainian Service reporter Tatiana Vorozhko also contributed to this report.

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