Putin values China's position on Ukraine

·3-min read

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he understands that Xi Jinping has questions and concerns about the situation in Ukraine but he's praised the Chinese leader for 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 with the West since the Cold War.

At their first face-to-face meeting since the war, Xi called Putin his "old friend" after Putin said 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.

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 February 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.

The Xi-Putin partnership is considered one of the most significant developments in geopolitics after China's own spectacular rise over the past 40 years.

Once the leader in the global Communist hierarchy, Russia after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union is now a junior partner to a resurgent China which is forecast to overtake the United States as the world's biggest economy in the next decade.

Xi, the son of Communist revolutionary whose has praised the jewels of Russian literature in public, and Putin, who grew up in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, and came of age in the Soviet-era KGB, say their relations have never been better.

Nearly seven months of war in Ukraine have strained Russia's economic and military power, though Putin says that his country is tilting towards Asia because, he says, the West is in decline.

Though Russia and China have in the past been rivals and have fought wars, Putin and Xi share a view of the world which sees the West as decadent and in decline just as China challenges the United States' supremacy.

Xi said China will work with Russia.

"In the face of changes in the world, in our times and of history, China is willing to work with Russia to play a leading role in demonstrating the responsibility of major powers, and to instil stability and positive energy into a world in turmoil," Xi told Putin.

Putin explicitly backed China over Taiwan.

China held blockade-style military drills around Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island last month. Taiwan's government strongly rejects China's sovereignty claims.

"We intend to firmly adhere to the principle of 'One China'," Putin said. "We condemn provocations by the United States and their satellites in the Taiwan Strait."