MOSCOW Chinese President Xi Jinping touted close ties with Russia on the second day of his state visit to Moscow on Tuesday, inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to make a return visit later this year.

It fits the historical logic that Chinese leaders take Russia as a primary choice for their overseas visits, Mr Xi said, adding that China and Russia are each others biggest neighbour and comprehensive strategic partner, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Russias invasion of Ukraine was a major topic for the leaders in more than four hours of talks Monday, according to both sides, with Mr Putin saying before the meeting that hes ready to discuss Chinas initiative for ending the war.

Mr Putin welcomed Mr Xi to the Kremlin on Tuesday afternoon for more discussions. Russian state television showed the two men walking the long red carpets of the Kremlin to shake hands before joining their delegations.

The United States and its allies have rejected Chinas proposals as biased toward Russia.

Mr Xi is expected to speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time since the February 2022 invasion after his Russia visit.

Mr Xis three-day visit, his first trip abroad since claiming a third term earlier this month, sends a strong signal of support for Mr Putin amid efforts by the US and its allies to isolate the Russian President over his invasion.

Russia has become increasingly dependent on China for trade with other markets cut off, but there were few indications that this visit would bring new deals.

Mr Putin and Mr Xi had an in-depth exchange of views on the Ukraine issue, Chinas Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. It added that most countries support easing tensions, but the ministry did not go into further details.

China would continue to strengthen strategic coordination with Russia, Mr Xi also said, according to the statement.

Mr Xi met in the morning Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who called for deepening economic ties and received his own invitation to visit China.

Later Tuesday, the two sides are expected to sign several declarations, and Mr Xi and Mr Putin will make press statements before a state dinner in the Tsarist-era Palace of Facets. Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets China’s President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 21, 2023. PHOTO: AFP US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby dismissed the visit as a marriage of convenience.

President Xi finds himself in this weird position wanting the war to end but not wanting Russia to lose, he said on MSNBC.

Chinas ceasefire paper has little detail and largely consists of broader foreign policy positions long espoused by Beijing. While its embrace of the principle of territorial integrity won praise in Kyiv, which seeks to drive Russian forces back across the border, a ceasefire call that would freeze forces in current positions is a non-starter. More On This Topic Putin tells Xi he will discuss Chinas blueprint for ending Ukraine conflict Dear friends Xi and Putin meet in Moscow as Ukraine war rages For Mr Putin, Mr Xi is by far the most significant international leader to visit since the invasion, which triggered Europes deadliest conflict since World War II and waves of sanctions by the US and its allies.

Mr Xis arrival comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Mr Putins arrest on charges of war crimes. Russia has dismissed the move, and China called for the court to avoid politicisation.

The Chinese leader last visited Russia in mid-2019, while Mr Putin went to Beijing in early 2022 to attend the opening of the Winter Olympics. At that meeting, the two leaders agreed to a no-limits friendship and signed a series of long-term energy supply deals.

The two met in September last year at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, where Mr Putin said he understands Beijings questions and concerns about his invasion of Ukraine, a rare admission of tensions between the diplomatic allies.BLOOMBERG More On This Topic China's Xi to Putin: Russians will support you in 2024 election China's Xi Jinping out to play peacemaker on Russia visit

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