China and Russia reaffirm ties as Moscow presses offensive in Ukraine

China and Russia reaffirm ties as Moscow presses offensive in Ukraine

China and Russia reaffirm ties as Moscow presses offensive in Ukraine

BEIJING — Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping Thursday for China's proposals on ending the war in Ukraine, which have been rejected by Ukraine and its Western supporters as largely following the Kremlin's line.

At their summit, Putin and Xi reaffirmed a “no-limits” partnership that has grown deeper as both countries face deepening tensions with the West.

Putin’s two-day visit to one of his strongest allies comes as his country’s forces are pressing an offensive in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region in the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began.

China claims to take a neutral position in the conflict, but it has backed Moscow’s contentions that Russia was provoked into attacking Ukraine by the West, and continues to supply Russia with key components that Moscow needs for its productions of weapons.

A joint statement after Putin and Xi met said that both sides believe that for “a sustainable settlement of the Ukrainian crisis it is necessary to eliminate its root causes.”

Russia has said that the war was sparked not only by the threat posed to Russia by Ukraine and its backers but as necessary to wipe out alleged Nazism in Ukraine. It was not clear if the joint statement's wording meant China was explicitly endorsing the Russian allegation of Nazi influence in Ukraine.

But the statement also noted that “The two sides pointed out that it is necessary to carry out education on the correct historical perspective, protect the world’s anti-fascist memorial facilities, and protect them from desecration or destruction, and severely condemn the glorification of or even attempts to revive Nazism and militarism.” That echoes Russia's persistent contention that Western countries downplay the Red Army's role in defeating Nazi Germany.

China proposed a broadly worded peace plan in 2023, calling for a ceasefire and for direct talks between Moscow and Kyiv. But the plan was rejected by both Ukraine and the West for failing to call for Russia to leave occupied parts of Ukraine.

The largely symbolic visit stressed partnership between two countries who both face challenges in their relationship with the U.S. and Europe.

“Both sides want to show that despite what is happening globally, despite the pressure that both sides are facing from the U.S., both sides are not about to turn their backs on each other anytime soon,” said Hoo Tiang Boon, a professor who researches Chinese foreign policy at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

While both leaders said they were seeking an end to the war in Ukraine, they offered no new specifics in their public remarks Thursday afternoon. China has significant influence as a key supporter of Russia its invasion.

“China hopes for the early return of Europe to peace and stability and will continue to play a constructive role toward this,” Xi said, speaking alongside Putin.

After Russia’s newest offensive in Ukraine last week, the 2-year-old war has entered a critical stage, as Ukraine’s depleted military waits for new supplies of anti-aircraft missiles and artillery shells from the United States after months of delay.

Before their remarks, the two leaders signed a joint statement on deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between their two nations on their 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties, after their initial meeting. Xi said China and Russia will continue to uphold a position of non-alliance and non-confrontation.

Thursday’s meeting was yet another affirmation of the friendly “no limits” relationship they signed in 2022, just before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Since then, Russia has become increasingly economically dependent on China as Western sanctions cut its access to much of the international trading system. China’s increased trade with Russia, totaling $240 billion last year, has helped the country mitigate some of the worst blowback from sanctions.

Moscow has diverted the bulk of its energy exports to China and relying on Chinese companies for importing high-tech components for Russian military industries to circumvent Western sanctions.

“I and President Putin agree, we should actively look for convergence points of the interests of both countries, to develop each’s advantages, and deepen integration of interests, realizing each others’ achievements,” Xi said.