China's Xi Jinping to visit Moscow next week for talks with Putin
China declared 'no limits' partnership with Russia last year, refuses to condemn invasion of Ukraine
Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Russia next week to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin, the two countries said on Friday, as Beijing touts a plan to end the grinding Ukraine war that has received a lukewarm welcome on both sides.
Xi's visit from Monday to Wednesday comes after China last month published a 12-point plan for "a political resolution of the Ukraine crisis" — and after China's foreign minister, in a rare phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart on Thursday, urged negotiations with Moscow.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing is concerned about the year-old war with Russia spinning out of control and urged talks on a political solution, the foreign ministry in Beijing said in a statement posted on its website.
Qin said China has "always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, has committed itself to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks," the statement said.
Kuleba later tweeted that he and Qin "discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity."
During my call with China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang today, we discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity. I underscored the importance of <a href="https://twitter.com/ZelenskyyUa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ZelenskyyUa</a>’s Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine.—@DmytroKuleba
"I underscored the importance of [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's] Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine," wrote Kuleba, who spoke the same day with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
China's plan calls for the protection of civilians and for Russia and Ukraine to respect each other's sovereignty.
However, the United States and NATO have said Beijing's efforts to mediate are not credible as it has refrained from condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special military operation."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Xi's visit to Russia — his first in nearly four years — was in part to promote "peace," although he made no explicit mention of the Ukraine war.
He said the leaders would also exchange opinions on major regional and international issues, strengthen bilateral trust and deepen economic partnerships.
Meeting to discuss 'topical issues'
The Kremlin said in a statement that Xi and Putin would discuss "topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic co-operation between Russia and China." The statement also made no mention of Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Putin and Xi would have a one-on-one meeting over an informal dinner Monday. Broader talks involving officials from both countries are scheduled for Tuesday. Peskov would not provide details about the discussions.
Putin's foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, suggested the talks could yield new approaches to the fighting in Ukraine, where Russia has struggled to advance.
"I'm sure that our leader and the Chinese leader will exchange their assessments of the situation in the context of the development of the conflict in Ukraine," Ushakov said, adding: "We shall see what ideas will emerge after that."
Xi will hold a telephone call with Zelenskyy following his Russia visit, according to some media reports. Beijing has not confirmed the call.
China and Russia announced a "no-limits" partnership in February 2022 when Putin visited Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics, days before he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, triggering the biggest conflict seen in Europe since the Second World War.
Beijing and Moscow have since continued to reaffirm the strength of their ties. Bilateral trade has soared since the invasion and China is Russia's biggest buyer of oil, a key source of revenue for Moscow.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions have fled their homes in Ukraine since the invasion and there is currently no sign of either side actively seeking an end to the conflict.
Ukraine open to 'parts of the plan'
Ukraine has taken issue with Beijing's proposals for not stating that Russia should withdraw behind borders in place since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, though it later said it was open to "parts of the plan."
Russia welcomed Beijing's initiative and said it would make a "nuanced study" of the plan but has also said it sees no sign for now of a peaceful resolution.
WATCH | Putin meets with China's top diplomat, attempts to strengthen ties:
Moscow says Ukraine must accept its annexation of four regions in the east and south of the country along with the loss of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula it forcibly annexed in 2014.
Russia says its actions in Ukraine are a defensive pushback against a hostile and aggressive West, while Kyiv and its Western allies say they represent an imperial-style land grab.
With files from The Associated Press