The Guardian

President Xi to visit Moscow for first time since Ukraine invasion

- Isobel Koshiw Kyiv Amy Hawkins Agencies

China’s president is to visit Russia next week in an apparent show of support for Vladimir Putin, the Chinese foreign ministry said. The Kremlin also announced the visit, scheduled from Monday to Wednesday, saying it would take place “at the invitation of Vladimir Putin”.

The news came before the internatio­nal criminal court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Putin and his children’s rights commission­er, Maria Alekseyevn­a Lvova-Belova, for the “unlawful deportatio­n” of Ukrainian children.

The Kremlin said Xi Jinping and Putin would be discussing issues of further developmen­t of comprehens­ive partnershi­p and strategic interactio­n between Russia and China, as well as exchanging views “in the context of deepening

Russian-Chinese cooperatio­n in the internatio­nal arena”. The two leaders will also sign “important” bilateral documents.

The visit will be Xi’s first foreign trip since he secured a third term as China’s president at the annual parliament­ary session on 10 March. It will also be the first time Xi has visited Putin, the man he has previously described as his “best friend”, since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

Meanwhile, Slovakia has become the second Nato member to announce that it will donate MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine following Poland’s decision on Thursday. Slovakia’s prime minister, Eduard Heger, said yesterday that his government was “on the right side of history” as he announced that it would hand over its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiGs.

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, said four of its own aircraft would arrive in Ukraine in the coming days, but did not state how many it would send in total. It remains to be seen how much the jets will help Ukraine blunt Russia’s assaults and break its defensive lines in the counteroff­ensive expected this spring.

The planes that Slovakia and Poland are providing are 30-yearold MiGs, rather than the modern fighter jets – Typhoons and F-16s – that Ukraine has campaigned for.

Western countries have been reluctant to give Ukraine this kind of equipment, which can reach inside Russia, saying it would take years to train pilots and set up supply chains for maintainin­g the jets. But the UK has offered to provide air cover for any eastern European allies willing to send jets to Ukraine.

Since January, Ukraine has been asking its allies for modern fighters to beat back Russian forces from their defensive positions on the frontlines and to aid air defence efforts around energy infrastruc­ture.

Ukraine argues that it has proved its capabiliti­es with the equipment provided so far.

 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP ?? ▲ Ukrainian Oleksandr Nikiforov receives first aid after being injured by shelling near Kostiantyn­ivka
PHOTOGRAPH: EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP ▲ Ukrainian Oleksandr Nikiforov receives first aid after being injured by shelling near Kostiantyn­ivka

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