BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping flew into Moscow on Monday where he was expected to press Beijings role as a potential peacemaker in the Ukraine war while Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped for support against Western pressure.
Mr Xi will be the first national leader to shake Mr Putins hand since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him on Friday over the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia since its invasion.
Moscow said the charge was among a number of clearly hostile displays and Beijing said it reflects double standards.
Russia is presenting Mr Xis trip, his first since securing an unprecedented third term this month, as evidence that it has a powerful friend prepared to stand with it against a hostile West that it accuses of trying to isolate and defeat Moscow.
We can feel the geopolitical landscape in the outside world undergoing drastic changes, Mr Putin said in an article in Chinas Peoples Daily published on the Kremlin website, adding that he had high hopes for the visit from his good old friend.
For Mr Xi, the visit is a diplomatic tightrope.
China has released a 12-point proposal to solve the Ukraine crisis, but at the same time strengthened ties with Moscow.
China has repeatedly dismissed Western accusations that it is planning to arm Russia but says it wants a closer energy partnership after boosting imports of Russian coal, gas and oil following Mr Putins all-out invasion of Ukraine.
Western sanctions on Russian energy mean Beijing has saved billions of dollars.
Mr Xi arrived in Moscow on Monday afternoon and was due to hold informal talks with Mr Putin, followed by dinner.
Formal talks are scheduled for Tuesday. Embed Twitter Tweet URL Mr Xi wrote in an article published in Russia that the two countries adhered to the concept of eternal friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation and that Chinas Ukraine peace proposal, released in February, reflects global views.
Complex problems do not have simple solutions, Mr Xi wrote in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a daily published by the Russian government, according to a Reuters translation from Russian. Chinas President Xi Jinping, accompanied by Russian DPM Dmitry Chernyshenko, inspecting the honour guards during a welcoming ceremony at Moscows Vnukovo airport on March 20, 2023. PHOTO: AFP Ukraine says a truce would buy Mr Putin time to reinforce ahead of a planned Ukrainian counter-offensive and urged Russia and China to uphold international law as they say they do.
The first and main point is the capitulation or withdrawal of Russian occupying forces from the territory of Ukraine in accordance with the norms of international law, Mr Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraines National Security and Defence Council, said shortly before Mr Xi arrived in Moscow.
Chinas proposal contains no concrete plan on how to end the year-long war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, destroyed cities and forced millions to flee.
Mr Putin welcomed Chinas offer to mediate and the Kremlin said he would provide Mr Xi with detailed clarifications of Russias position, without elaborating. More On This Topic A bolder Xi goes to Moscow, but his balancing act remains China's Xi Jinping out to play peacemaker on Russia visit Mr Putin signed a no limits partnership with Mr Xi last year shortly before he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine to end what he said was a threat to Russia from its moves towards the West.
The US notes that China has declined to condemn Russia and given it an economic lifeline.
Alongside growing oil and coal deliveries to China, Mr Putin said Russia was helping to build nuclear power reactors there and the two countries were deepening cooperation in space exploration and new technologies.
As Western pressure on Russia grows, Mr Putins administration has told officials to stop using Apple iPhones because of concerns the devices are vulnerable to Western intelligence agencies, a newspaper reported on Monday.
Either throw it away or give it to the children, the Kommersant daily quoted a participant of the meeting as saying.
Justice ministers from around the world will meet in London on Monday to discuss support for the ICC and several European Union countries are expected to sign an agreement in Brussels to buy 155 mm artillery shells for Ukraine.
Ukraine has identified the shells supply as critical, with both sides firing thousands of rounds every day. The first joint orders are not expected until the end of May but EU officials hope the plan will encourage member states to send more of their stockpiles to Ukraine. More On This Topic 'No other option': Russia's unequal economic marriage with China China urges Ukraine, Russia to restart peace talks as soon as possible In Ukraine, fierce fighting continued in the eastern town of Bakhmut with each side launching counter offensives. Ukrainian forces have held out in Bakhmut since last summer in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.
Giving its regular morning roundup from the front, Ukraines military said defenders in Bakhmut, Lyman, Ivanivske, Bohdanivka and Hryhorivka – all towns in the Donetsk region – had repelled 69 Russian attacks in the past day.
Bakhmut remains the epicentre of hostilities, it said. Ukrainian servicemen firing an M777 howitzer at Russian positions near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2023. PHOTO: AFP British intelligence said Ukrainian supply lines both west of Bakhmut and west of the town of Avdiivka, further south, were under pressure.
Ukraines military said that Russian forces were on the defensive in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions to the south.
Russias Wagner mercenary group which is spearheading the assault on Bakhmut and has suffered heavy losses, plans to recruit some 30,000 new fighters by the middle of May, its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said at the weekend.
In January, the US assessed that Wagner had about 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, including 40,000 convicts Prigozhin had recruited from Russian prisons with a promise of a pardon if they survived six months.
Ukrainian officials have said that some 30,000 of Wagners fighters have deserted or been killed or wounded, a figure that could not be independently verified. REUTERS More On This Topic Ukraine still able to resupply troops in battered Bakhmut, says army US spy chiefs see China-Russia love affair continuing