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Russian President Vladimir Putin is among the world leaders who did elect to visit the Winter Olympics in Beijing. He met his counterpart Xi Jinping just hours ahead of the Opening Ceremony.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Friday to attend the Winter Olympic Games and hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The visit comes amidst rising Chinese support for Moscow in its dispute with Ukraine, which has seen Russian troops amassing near the border. The meeting of the two leaders will be their first in-person discussion since 2019, and Xi's first known face-to-face talks with any of his counterparts in almost two years, since early in the COVID pandemic.
The two leaders have positioned themselves as a counterweight to the US and its allies, particularly as Washington adopts an increasingly vocal stance about the potential for a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In a televised statement ahead of their talks, Putin said Moscow's relationship with Beijing was "developing progressively along the path of friendship and strategic partnership."
"They are of a truly unprecedented nature," the Russian leader said, describing their ties as an "example of a dignified relationship".
A joint statement put out by the two leaders after their meeting highlighted their aligning views on global security, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Taiwan. The latter is considered by China to be a renegade province, while many Western governments treat it as an independent nation without formally recognizing it as such.
"The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan," the statement said.
The two leaders then accused the US and NATO of "ideologized Cold War approaches" to defense policy, an illusion to Washington’s support for Ukraine and Russia's fears that the trans-Atlantic alliance has ambitions to expand its presence on Moscow's doorstep.
They expressed their concern about "the advancement of US plans to develop global missile defense and deploy its elements in various regions of the world, combined with capacity building of high-precision non-nuclear weapons for disarming strikes and other strategic objectives."
Putin and Xi also used the opportunity to announce a major new natural gas and trade deal between their two countries.
“For our meeting today, our oilmen have prepared very good new solutions for the supply of hydrocarbons to the People's Republic of China, and another step forward has been taken in the gas industry," Putin said of the deal.
Putin will be the highest-profile guest at the opening ceremonies after several nations,including the US and UK, declared that they were not sending diplomatic delegations to protest China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.
Although Germany has not declared a formal political boycott, the country's leading politicians all eventually declined to visit. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier both said they would not attend, though Steinmeier's office did say it had reached the decision prior to the US' diplomatic boycott. On Wednesday, after weeks avoiding giving an unequivocal answer, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he would not visit China during the Games.
In an article published Thursday by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Putin wrote that Moscow and Beijing played an "important stabilizing role'' in global affairs and helped make international affairs "more equitable and inclusive.''
In an apparent dig at Washington and other Western governments snubbing the Olympics, Putin then criticized "attempts by some countries to politicize sports to the benefit of their ambitions."
es/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)