Hong Kong (CNN) Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow next week to meet President Vladimir Putin, his first visit to Russia since Putin launched his disastrous invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
The visit will be seen in Western capitals as a powerful show of Beijing’s support for Moscow, as leaders have grown increasingly wary of the two countries’ deepening partnership as war rages in Europe.
It was Xi’s first foreign trip after being sworn in for an unprecedented third term as president at the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature last week.
Friday’s face-off was revealed by statements from both Beijing and the Kremlin.
China’s foreign ministry said the visit, which will take place from Monday to Wednesday at the invitation of Putin, will be a key part of talks on the war in Ukraine.
“China’s proposal boils down to one sentence, which is to insist on peace and promote dialogue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
The Kremlin said the two leaders would discuss “thematic issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China”.
“An exchange of views is also planned in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena,” the Kremlin added. “A number of important bilateral documents will be signed.”
A ‘no limits’ relationship
The visit comes as China tries to position itself as a neutral peace broker in Ukraine. A position paper Calls for a political solution to the crisis.
On Thursday, China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to call for peace talks. The two “discussed the importance of regional integration,” Kuleba said on Twitter.
But the mediator’s claim has been questioned by Western leaders, who point to China’s refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict and growing ties with Russia.
Since the invasion, Xi has spoken with Putin several times — virtually and in person, but never had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In February last year, when the Russian leader visited Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, Xi and Putin declared a “boundless” friendship.
Under Xi, China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion — or mention it, instead blaming NATO for fueling the conflict by amplifying the Kremlin’s disinformation.
It has also provided diplomatic support to Moscow Strengthening economic and military ties By increasing trade and conducting frequent joint military exercises.
Western officials have begun to publicly raise concerns in recent weeks that China is considering providing dangerous military aid to Russia, a charge denied by Beijing.
Last month, Putin hosted China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Moscow days before the anniversary of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Putin said relations between his country and China were “reaching new milestones”, while Wang promised to “further strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership”.
Putin and Xi last held a virtual meeting in December, in which the Russian leader described relations between the two countries as “the best in history”, adding that they “can withstand all tests”.
Both leaders share a deep suspicion and hostility toward the United States, which they believe is bent on containing China and Russia. They also share a vision for a new world order — one that better accommodates their countries’ interests and is not dominated by the West.
They have developed a close personal relationship, with Xi describing Putin as a “best friend” in 2019. Xi has met Putin in person 39 times since becoming China’s leader, most recently during a summit in Central Asia in September.
CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed to this story