Xi Jinping and Putin hail 'close ties' in Moscow talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed his "dear friend" — and Chinese counterpart — Xi Jinping to Moscow for talks Monday.
The highly-anticipated two-day visit is Xi's first to the Russian capital since Putin launched his war against Ukraine in February last year.
He is also the first leader to meet the Russian president since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him on Friday.
What did Xi and Putin say?
During informal talks in the Kremlin, Putin told China's premier he welcomed Beijing's proposals to bring the war in Ukraine to an end.
China has called for a cease-fire and put forward a 12-point peace plan that has been criticized by the West.
"We are always open to negotiations," Putin told Xi. "We will certainly discuss all these issues, including your initiatives which we treat with respect, of course."
"We have plenty of common tasks and objectives," Putin said, adding it was "symbolic" that the Chinese leader chose to travel to Russia for the first foreign visit of his new term.
Xi highlighted China's "close ties" with Russia, saying: "We are partners in comprehensive strategic cooperation. It is this status that determines that there should be close ties between our countries."
Putin told Xi that he was "slightly envious" of China´s "very effective system for developing the economy and strengthening the stae."
Xi praised Putin and predicted he would be elected next year.
"Under your strong leadership, Russia has made great strides in its prosperous development," Xi said.
What is the significance of Xi's visit?
Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and has instead sought to present itself as a neutral party and potential mediator while reaffirming its close ties to Moscow.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said it was "closely" following Xi's visit and urged him to use Beijing's influence to push for an end to the war.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Xi's visit.
“That President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
"Instead of even condemning them it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those grave crimes,” he added.
The trip was expected to give Putin a political boost at a time when he is increasingly isolated internationally and has been accused by the ICC of committing war crimes in Ukraine.
On the eve of Xi's visit, Putin welcomed Beijing's willingness to play a "constructive role" in ending the Ukraine war and said Russia had high hopes for the meeting with a "good old friend."
The Kremlin said the leaders would sign an accord on "on strengthening (the two countries') comprehensive partnership and strategic relations entering a new era."
China has become an increasingly important trading partner for sanctions-hit Moscow and has stepped up its imports of Russian oil and gas since the start of the war.
Beijing has also been accused by Washington of considering sending weapons to support Russia's war, but China has denied these claims.
Following informal talks and a dinner on Monday, Xi and Putin were scheduled to have formal negotiations on Tuesday. The Chinese premier is in Moscow until Wednesday.
nm/es (Reuters, AP, dpa)