Putin meets 'dear friend' Xi in Kremlin as Ukraine war grinds on
(Reuters) - Vladimir Putin and his "dear friend" Chinese leader Xi Jinping planned more talks today after a Kremlin dinner where the isolated Russian president showcased his most powerful ally in the face of Western opposition to the war in Ukraine.
Washington denounced Xi's visit, saying the timing just days after an international court accused Putin of war crimes indicated Beijing was providing Moscow with "diplomatic cover" to commit additional crimes.
It was Xi's first trip abroad since he obtained an unprecedented third term last month. The Chinese leader has been trying to portray Beijing as a potential peacemaker in Ukraine, even as he deepens economic ties with his closest ally.
Putin and Xi greeted one another as "dear friend" when they met in the Kremlin on Monday, and Russian state news agencies later reported they held informal talks for nearly 4-1/2 hours, with more official talks scheduled for Tuesday.
In televised comments, Putin told Xi he viewed China's proposals for resolution of the Ukraine conflict with respect. He confessed to being "slightly envious" of China's "very effective system for developing the economy and strengthening the state".
Xi, for his part, praised Putin and predicted Russians would re-elect him next year.
Moscow has been publicly promoting plans for a visit by Xi for months. But the timing gave the Chinese leader's personal support new meaning, after the
International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Friday accusing Putin of war crimes for deporting children from Ukraine.
Moscow denies illegally deporting children, saying it has taken in orphans to protect them. It opened a criminal case against the court's prosecutor and judges. Beijing said the warrant reflected double standards.
The West says the warrant should make the Russian leader a pariah.
"That President Xi is travelling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
"Instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those grave crimes.”