SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday (Sep 15) said he understood that Xi Jinping had questions and concerns about the situation in Ukraine but praised China’s leader for what he said was a “balanced” position on the conflict.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the global economy into uncharted waters with soaring prices for food and energy amid the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
At their first face-to-face meeting since the war, Xi said he was very happy to meet “my old friend” again after Putin said crude attempts by the United States to create a unipolar world would fail.
“We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis,” Putin told Xi.
“We understand your questions and concern about this. During today’s meeting, we will of course explain our position.”
Putin’s first remarks about Chinese concern over the war come just days after a lightning rout of his forces in northeastern Ukraine.
Xi, who the Communist Party is due next month to bestow a historic third leadership term and thus cement his place as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks.
A Chinese readout of the meeting also did not mention Ukraine. It said China is willing to give strong support to Russia for matters related to its core interests, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
China has refrained from condemning Russia’s operation against Ukraine or calling it an “invasion” in line with the Kremlin, which casts the war as “a special military operation”.
The last time Xi and Putin met in person, just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24, they declared a “no limits” partnership and inked a promise to collaborate more against the West.
Still, Beijing is perturbed by the impact on the global economy and has been careful not to give material support to Russia that could trigger Western sanctions on China’s own economy.