The Daily Telegraph

Putin aware of Xi’s Ukraine concerns Page 17

Russian leader adopts conciliato­ry tone with Chinese counterpar­t after setbacks in Ukraine

- By Nataliya Vasilyeva in Samarkand

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, has “questions and concerns” about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin admitted as the two leaders met for the first time since the invasion. Mr Putin and Mr Xi sat at least 16ft away from each other across two large, ornate tables, in a meeting in Uzbekistan that was a chance for the presidents to deepen ties and present an anti-western alliance. However, it appeared to end with no major new commitment­s from either side.

XI JINPING, China’s president, has “questions and concerns” about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin admitted as the two leaders met for the first time since the invasion.

The meeting in Uzbekistan was a chance for the presidents to deepen ties and present an anti-western alliance, but appeared to end with no major new commitment­s from either side. Samarkand,

a major city of the ancient Silk Road chosen to host the summit, went into a strict security lockdown the day before the leaders arrived.

Schools were shut and roads emptied of traffic as private vehicles were barred until the end of the week. Police officers were posted at every corner of the city, and members of the press and delegation­s were tightly corralled by designated government minders.

Mr Putin and Mr Xi sat at least five metres away from each other across two ornate tables arranged in a horseshoe shape with bouquets of flowers in the middle of a coffin-shaped centrepiec­e.

Mr Putin, who is desperate for China’s backing after heavy losses for his forces in Ukraine, said in his opening remarks that Mr Xi was concerned about the invasion.

“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in relation to the Ukrainian crisis,” Mr Putin told Mr Xi, seated on the other end of the large roundtable.

“We understand your questions and concerns on this matter,” he said, adding that he was hoping to explain his position to Mr Xi further.

Analysts believe Russia’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine has prompted China to reconsider its deepening ties with Moscow. The events of this year are also thought to have strengthen­ed China’s position in the relationsh­ip.

Mr Xi, in a statement, pledged “strong support” for Russia’s “core interests” but made no reference to Ukraine. “China is willing to work with Russia to demonstrat­e its responsibi­lity as a major country, play a leading role, and inject stability into a turbulent world,” he said.

He said that he and Mr Putin advocated a “fairer and more equitable internatio­nal order”, in a veiled critique of Western hegemony.

The Russian leader said Moscow condemned “provocatio­n of the United

States and its allies in the Taiwan Strait”, words of encouragem­ent for Mr Xi who is seeking to “reunify” Taiwan with mainland China.

China never publicly backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nor has it condemned it. However, Mr Xi and Mr Putin did say they had a friendship with “no limits” the last time they met in Beijing just before the invasion.

Beijing has criticised the West for imposing crippling financial sanctions on Russia. Chinese companies, however, have been careful in their dealings with Russia so they would not face penalties for breaking the sanctions.

Experts on China noted that, despite the Russian leader’s remarks, Mr Xi made sure he did not publicly cross Mr

Putin on the war in Ukraine. “Xi had to calibrate his remarks and show he’s the master of fence-sitting: He wasn’t critical or said anything negative in public,” Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for Internatio­nal Peace, said.

The meeting was part of the summit of the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organisati­on.

As Moscow was seeking support from Beijing, Washington was last night poised to announce a $600million (£523million) arms package for Kyiv. White House sources said it would include more high-precision missiles as well as howitzer ammunition. It adds to $15.1 billion of security assistance already delivered by the United States.

‘We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in relation to the Ukrainian crisis’

 ?? ?? Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, left, and Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, right, sit at a great distance from each other during their meeting, which was part of the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organisati­on summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, left, and Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, right, sit at a great distance from each other during their meeting, which was part of the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organisati­on summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

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