June 1, 2023

It was Xi Jinping’s first overseas trip since he received an unprecedented third term last month. The Chinese leader is trying to portray Beijing as a potential peacemaker in Ukraine as it deepens economic ties with its closest ally Image Credit: Reuters

Moscow: On Monday, Vladimir Putin invited his “dear friend” Xi Jinping to dinner at the Kremlin, demonstrating his relationship with his most powerful ally just days after an international court ordered the arrest of the Russian president for war crimes in Ukraine.

Washington condemned Xi’s visit, saying the timing indicated Beijing was providing Moscow with “diplomatic cover” to commit more crimes.

It was Xi Jinping’s first overseas trip since he received an unprecedented third term last month. The Chinese leader is trying to portray Beijing as a potential peacemaker in Ukraine as it deepens economic ties with its closest ally.

Putin and Xi greeted each other as “dear friend” when they met in the Kremlin, with Russian state news agencies later reporting that they held informal talks for nearly 4.5 hours, with official talks scheduled for Tuesday.

In television comments after they greeted each other, Putin told Xi that he respected China’s proposals to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. He admitted that he was “slightly jealous” of China’s “very efficient system for developing the economy and strengthening the state.”

Xi, for his part, has praised Putin and predicted that the Russians will re-elect him next year.

“Under your strong leadership, Russia has made great strides in its prosperous development,” he said.

Moscow has been publicly promoting plans for Xi’s visit for several months now. But time has given new meaning to the Chinese leader’s personal support after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Friday charging Putin with war crimes for deporting children from Ukraine.

Moscow denies the illegal deportation of the children, saying the orphans were taken away for their protection. A criminal case has been initiated against the prosecutor of the court and judges. Beijing said the order reflected double standards.

The West says the warrants should make the Russian leader a pariah.

“The fact that President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin shows that China does not feel compelled to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine,” he said. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

“Instead of even condemning them, he would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit these heinous crimes.”

White House press secretary John Kirby said Xi should use his influence to pressure Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine, and Washington was concerned that Beijing might call for a ceasefire instead, allowing Russian troops to stay.

China has come up with a proposal to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, which the West has dismissed as a plot to buy Putin time to regroup his forces and consolidate his hold on the occupied lands.

According to Kirby, Russia and China “do not have the same network of friends and partners” around the world as the United States, and so they are now strengthening their relationship.

“I’d say it’s more of a marriage of convenience than of affection,” Kirby told reporters.
Washington has said in recent weeks that it also fears that China might arm Russia, which Beijing denies.

Kiev, which says the war cannot end until Russia withdraws its troops, is being cautious about China, cautiously welcoming Beijing’s peace proposal when it was unveiled last month, although it was publicly skeptical by Western allies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that China’s arming Russia could lead to World War III, but he also believed that Beijing was aware of the risk, implying that it thought it was unlikely. He urged Xi to talk to him.

Putin signed a “borderless” partnership with Xi last year, shortly before the Kremlin leader ordered an invasion of Ukraine. Putin claims he is seeking to end the threat to Russia from its neighbors moving towards the West; Kyiv and the West call it an unprovoked attack on an independent state.

The Russian attack is believed to have killed tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers on both sides. Moscow has destroyed Ukrainian cities, put millions to flight, and claims to have annexed almost a fifth of Ukraine.

The Kremlin said Putin would provide Xi with detailed “clarifications” on Russia’s position, without going into detail.
Several EU countries agreed on Monday in Brussels on the joint purchase of 1 million 155-mm artillery shells for Ukraine. Both sides fire thousands of shells a day.

The United States announced its latest $350 million military aid package, including additional ammunition for HIMARS rocket launchers, howitzers and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, as well as HARM missiles, anti-tank weapons and river boats.

Fierce fighting continued in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, where since last summer Ukrainian forces had been fighting the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

Moscow, which has not won a major victory since August, launched a massive winter offensive, which involved hundreds of thousands of newly drafted reservists and prisoners recruited from places of deprivation of liberty.

Fighting, described by both sides as a meat grinder, has littered the battlefield with bodies, but the front line has barely moved for more than four months.

Ukraine, which regained some territory in the second half of 2022, has been largely on the defensive since November, seeking to deplete Russia’s offensive forces before launching its own planned counter-offensive.

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