Putin admits China has ‘questions and concerns’ over Russia’s faltering invasion of Ukraine


Putin made the comments when he met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in person for the first time since the invasion at a regional summit in Uzbekistan, days after Russia suffered a series of major military setbacks in Ukraine. Russian troops are withdrawing en masse and have lost more territory in a week than they have conquered in five months.

“We very much appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in relation to the Ukrainian crisis. We understand your questions and concerns in this regard,” Putin said in an opening address of the meeting. “In today’s meeting, of course, we will set out in detail our position on this issue, although we have discussed this before.”

Xi said China would “work with Russia to provide strong mutual support on issues affecting each other’s core interests” and “play a leading role in injecting stability and positive energy into a world of change and disorder,” according to a readout from the meeting provided. by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Xi also said he “appreciated Russia’s adherence to the One China Principle and emphasized that Taiwan is part of China.”

The two authoritarian leaders have emerged in recent years as close partners, propelled by a growing conflict with the West and a strong personal connection.

China has offered tacit support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine, while Moscow has backed Beijing and criticized Washington over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August. Beijing responded to its journey with unprecedented military exercises around the self-governing democratic island, which it claims as its own territory.

The White House tried to downplay the Putin-Xi meeting on Thursday, saying Beijing had not yet violated Western sanctions against Moscow, nor had it provided direct material aid to Russia.

“Our message to China, I think, was consistent: that this is not the time for any sort of business as usual with Mr Putin, given what he has done in Ukraine. This is not the time to be isolated from the rest of the international community, which has largely condemned what it is doing in Ukraine and not only condemned it, but also acted to help Ukrainians defend themselves and their territorial integrity,” said John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic communications, to CNN.

Kirby said Putin was “under a lot of pressure and stress. His military is not doing well in Ukraine, and I think it’s definitely good for the Kremlin to align with Beijing on what’s going on there.”

During their meeting on Thursday, Putin condemned the United States for what he said were “provocations” in the Taiwan Strait, and criticized what he said were attempts to “create a unipolar world”. Those efforts, he said, “have recently taken an ugly shape and are absolutely unacceptable to most states on the planet.”

The two are holding talks on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security-focused group that also includes India, Pakistan and four Central Asian countries.

In a symbolic display of strength and unity, Russian and Chinese navies conducted joint patrols and exercises in the Pacific just hours before their leaders’ meeting, Russia’s defense ministry said.

Xi and Putin want to create a new world order.  Russia's setback in Ukraine could ruin their plans

Beginning the meeting Thursday, Putin highlighted the deeper economic ties between China and Russia, noting that bilateral trade exceeded $140 billion last year. “I am confident that by the end of the year we will reach new record levels, and in the near future, as agreed, we will increase our annual trade turnover to $200 billion or more,” he said.

Putin last met Xi during a visit to the Chinese capital for the Winter Olympics in February this year. It was during that meeting that the two leaders formed their ‘no-limits’ partnership and released a 5,000-word document expressing their shared opposition to the ‘further expansion of NATO’.

For Xi, meanwhile, Thursday’s meeting comes as part of his first trip outside China’s borders in more than two years, and just weeks before he aims to secure a norm-breaking third term at a major political rally in Beijing — a move that will affect his status. as China’s most powerful leader in decades.

China has become increasingly inward-looking since the start of the pandemic and still enforces a strict zero-covid policy limiting outbound travel.

Xi’s trip to Central Asia is a return to the world stage and offers him the chance to show that, despite increasing tensions with the West, China still has friends and partners and is ready to reaffirm its global influence.

Before arriving at the summit, Xi visited Kazakhstan, where in 2013, he unveiled his flagship Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure project stretching from East Asia to Europe.

Speaking with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Wednesday, Xi said China is eager to work with Kazakhstan to “remain pioneers in Belt and Road cooperation”.

Xi also told Tokayev that “China will always support Kazakhstan in maintaining national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese state media reported.

The Chinese leader traveled to Uzbekistan on Wednesday evening to meet Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He also met the presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on Thursday.

Anna Chernova, Betsy Klein and Ivana Kottasová of CNN contributed to this report.

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