June 1, 2023

Kyiv welcomes China’s diplomatic involvement but says Russia should withdraw its troops from Ukraine and stresses the importance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Image courtesy of Reuters

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin, after talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday, said the Chinese proposals could be used as the basis for a peace settlement in Ukraine, but the West and Kyiv were not ready yet.

President Putin has accused Western powers of fighting “to the last Ukrainian” following talks with Xi Jinping in the Kremlin that Vladimir Putin said showed growing trade, energy and political ties between China and Russia.

Describing his talks with Vladimir Putin as “open and friendly,” Xi Jinping reaffirmed China’s “neutral position” on Ukraine and called for dialogue.

“We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consistent with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for this in the West and in Kiev. However, so far we do not see such readiness on their part,” President Putin said.

The Chinese proposal — a 12-point document calling for de-escalation and a possible ceasefire in Ukraine — lacks details on how to end the war.

The United States has rejected the Chinese offer, given Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russia over Ukraine, and says a ceasefire will now secure Russia’s territorial gains and give Putin’s army more time to regroup.

Kyiv welcomes China’s diplomatic involvement but says Russia should withdraw its troops from Ukraine and stresses the importance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The Kremlin talks were to cement the “borderless” partnership the two leaders announced last February, less than three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

They signed a series of “strategic cooperation” documents after what Putin called “successful and constructive” talks that showed China is now clearly Russia’s most important economic partner.

“I am convinced that our multifaceted cooperation will continue to develop for the benefit of the peoples of our countries,” President Putin said in a televised address.

President Xi’s state visit is an important boost for President Putin as he opposes what he sees as a hostile West seeking to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia.

The Chinese leader visited Moscow days after an international court issued an arrest warrant for Putin over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where Russian troops have made little progress in recent months despite heavy casualties.

Vladimir Putin said that Russia, China and Mongolia have fulfilled all agreements on the planned pipeline to bring Russian gas to China and that Moscow is ready to increase oil exports to Beijing.

He also said that Moscow is ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia because of the conflict in Ukraine.

The planned Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline will deliver 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Russia to China via Mongolia. Moscow floated the idea years ago, but it has gained urgency as Russia turns to China to replace Europe as its main gas buyer.

Xi Jinping said China and Russia should cooperate more closely to promote closer “practical cooperation.”

Russia’s Gazprom is already supplying gas to China via the existing Power of Siberia pipeline in a 30-year, $400 billion deal concluded at the end of 2019. The length of this pipeline is about 3,000 km (1,865 miles).

Gas exports from Russia to China still represent a small fraction of the record 177 bcm delivered to Europe in 2018-2019.

President Putin said on Tuesday that by 2030 Russia will supply China with at least 98 billion cubic meters of gas.

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