Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin, marking the first in-person meeting between the two leaders since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.
The meeting is an informal face-to-face between the world leaders, whose nations will start official talks on March 21.
“Dear friend, welcome to Russia,” said Putin to Xi after the pair shook hands. Putin is courting Chinese support amid the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. China, which shares a 2,600-mile border with Russia, has signaled its intention to mediate the conflict and thereby expand its diplomatic influence.
Putin and Xi have met on 40 occasions over the last decade, including speaking via telephone and video calls in 2022.
Xi called the trip a “journey of friendship” and stressed that his country is “willing to continue to work with Russia to firmly safeguard the international order.” The Chinese president said China and Russia “should have close relations” and congratulated Putin on his strong leadership.
“Thanks to your strong leadership, Russia has made significant progress in achieving the prosperity of the country in recent years,” said Xi. “I am sure that the Russian people will strongly support you in your good endeavors.”
One of the subjects of the upcoming talks will be the peace proposal developed by the Chinese for the Ukraine-Russian war. The Chinese government has made a concerted effort to expand its global diplomatic influence. China played a central role in establishing a diplomatic dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokering a deal that included the reopening of embassies and the exchange of diplomats.
On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the People’s Republic of China released a 12-point plan calling for an immediate end to violence and proposing a resolution to the conflict through diplomatic discussions.
“All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control,” stated the plan, per Fox News. “All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire.”
China proposed respecting the sovereignty of all nations, preserving the safety of nuclear power plants, facilitating grain exportation, and stopping unilateral sanctions.
The Ukrainian government is not expected to seriously entertain a peace deal brokered by China. However, Ukraine did not formally condemn Xi for the visit. Rather, “political leaders in Kyiv have publicly restated the common ground they have with Beijing, namely the importance of countries respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity” while the government “has continued lobbying for a meeting — or at least a telephone conversation — between President Zelensky and Xi,” per the BBC.
Xi’s visit comes days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest for his alleged role in the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia.
Neither Russia nor the United States recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction.
In addition to this afternoon’s meeting, Xi will join Putin for a seven-course dinner of traditional Russian foods.