Baltimore Sun

Putin extends warm welcome to Xi

Leaders of Russia, China meet to send message to West

- By Vladimir Isachenkov

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin warmly welcomed Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the Kremlin on Monday, sending a powerful message to Western leaders that their efforts to isolate Moscow over the fighting in Ukraine have fallen short.

Xi’s trip — his first abroad since his re-election earlier this month — showed off Beijing’s new diplomatic swagger and gave a political lift to Putin just days after an internatio­nal arrest warrant was issued for the Kremlin leader on war crimes charges related to Ukraine.

The two major powers have described Xi’s threeday trip as an opportunit­y to deepen their “no-limits friendship.” China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy, and as a partner in standing up to what both see as U.S. aggression, domination of global affairs and unfair punishment for their human rights records.

The two countries, among the five U.N. Security Council’s permanent members, also have held joint military drills. U.S. officials have picked up indication­s China is considerin­g supplying Russia with weapons for its fight in Ukraine but have seen no evidence they’ve actually done so.

The leaders smiled and shook hands before sitting down at the start of their meeting, calling each other “dear friend” and exchanging compliment­s. Putin

congratula­ted Xi on his re-election and voiced hope for building even stronger ties.

“China has made a colossal leap ahead in its developmen­t in recent years,” Putin said, adding that “it’s causing genuine interest all around the world, and we even feel a bit envious,” as Xi smiled.

The Kremlin leader welcomed China’s proposals for a political settlement in Ukraine and noted Russia is open for talks.

“We will discuss all those issues, including your initiative that we highly respect,” Putin said. “Our cooperatio­n in the internatio­nal

arena undoubtedl­y helps strengthen the basic principles of the global order and multipolar­ity.”

Both Moscow and Beijing have accused Washington of trying to isolate them and hold back their developmen­t as they challenge it for regional and global leadership.

In an increasing­ly multipolar world, the U.S. and its allies have been unable to build a broad front against Putin. While 141 countries condemned Moscow in a United Nations vote last month marking the first anniversar­y of Russian troops rolling into Ukraine, several members of the G-20

— including India, China and South Africa — abstained. Many African nations also have refrained from openly criticizin­g Russia.

“We hope that the strategic partnershi­p between China and Russia will on the one hand uphold internatio­nal fairness and justice, and on the other hand promote the common prosperity and developmen­t of our countries,” Xi said.

In their 4 hours of talks, along with a dinner that included a Pacific seafood platter and roast venison in cherry sauce, Putin would offer Xi a “detailed explanatio­n” of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, according to

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Broader talks on a range of subjects are scheduled Tuesday.

For Putin, Xi’s presence is a prestigiou­s, diplomatic boost to show partnershi­p in the face of Western efforts to isolate Russia over Ukraine.

In an article published in the Chinese People’s Daily newspaper, Putin described Xi’s visit as a “landmark event” that “reaffirms the special nature of the RussiaChin­a partnershi­p.”

Putin also said the meeting sent a message to Washington that the two countries aren’t prepared to accept attempts to weaken them.

“The U.S. policy of simultaneo­usly deterring Russia and China, as well as all those who do not bend to the American diktat, is getting ever fiercer and more aggressive,” he wrote.

China portrays Xi’s visit as part of normal diplomatic exchanges and has offered little detail about its purpose, though Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Wang Wenbin told reporters Monday that China “will uphold its objective and fair position on the Ukrainian crisis and play a constructi­ve role in promoting peace talks.” Xi didn’t directly mention the Ukraine fighting or his peace plan when he sat down for the talks with Putin.

China last month called for a cease-fire and peace talks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cautiously welcomed Beijing’s involvemen­t, but the overture fizzled.

Kyiv officials also say they won’t bend in their terms for a peace accord.

Ukraine’s allies, meanwhile, are stepping up their support. The State Department announced Monday that the U.S. will send Ukraine $350 million in weapons and equipment. The latest aid package includes ammunition, such as rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, fuel tanker trucks and riverine boats.

In Brussels, European Union countries endorsed a fast-track procedure to provide Ukraine with artillery shells, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. He hailed “a historic decision” for the 27-nation bloc and Norway to send Ukraine 1 million 155 mm artillery shells within 12 months.

 ?? SERGEI KARPUKHIN/SPUTNIK ?? Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet Monday in Moscow.
SERGEI KARPUKHIN/SPUTNIK Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet Monday in Moscow.

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