Putin Welcomes Xi To Moscow For Chinese Leader’s First Visit Since Russia Invaded Ukraine
President putin welcomes xi to moscow for chinese leader’s first visit, his first since his strategic ally Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last year, as the Chinese leader seeks to portray himself as a peace broker despite deep skepticism in Kyiv and the West.
Putin welcomed Xi to the Kremlin on Monday, just days after the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused Putin of war crimes in Ukraine and issued an arrest warrant for him.
Ukraine is expected to be a major topic of conversation during Xi's three-day visit, which will be closely monitored for any potential impact on an entrenched conflict that has killed tens of thousands and triggered a massive humanitarian crisis.
“In the last few years, China has made a colossal leap forward,” Putin told Xi, sitting side by side with him at the Kremlin on Monday afternoon. “In the whole world, this evokes interest, and unfortunately even envy.”
China's Xi Jinping arrives in Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin
China has billed the trip as a "journey of friendship, cooperation, and peace," as part of Beijing's efforts to position itself as a key proponent for conflict resolution.
However, Xi's visit is likely to be interpreted in some Western capitals as a ringing endorsement of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the face of widespread international condemnation of his war.
During a publicized portion of Monday's meeting, Putin told Xi that he is "always open to the negotiation process," despite his repeated refusal to engage with Kyiv on a withdrawal from Ukrainian territory. Putin told Xi:
We studied closely your proposals on the settlement of the acute crisis in Ukraine. Of course, we will have an opportunity to discuss this issue. We know that you are based on the principles of justice and commitment to the fundamental points of international law. We will certainly discuss all these issues, including your initiative.- Putin
Western leaders are skeptical of China's potential role as a peacemaker and its claimed neutrality. Instead, the US and its allies have been warning China since last month that it is considering sending lethal aid to Russia for its war effort, which Beijing has denied.
Kyiv is also expected to keep a close eye on the situation and reiterated on Monday that any peace plan must begin with Russia leaving its territory.
“We expect Beijing to use its influence on Moscow to make it put an end to the aggressive war against Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told CNN Monday.
“Restoring territorial integrity of Ukraine should be at the core of every diplomatic effort,” he said. “We stand ready to engage in a closer dialogue with China in order to restore peace in Ukraine in accordance with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, and the latest UNGA resolution on this matter.”
Xi's visit comes just days after the ICC effectively declared Putin a wanted man in the 123 countries that recognize the court, further isolating the Russian leader from the West as he fights a bloody and costly war in Ukraine.
The Chinese president was scheduled to meet with Putin later that afternoon, local time. On his arrival at Vnukovo airport near Moscow, he was greeted by Dmitry Chernyshenko, one of Russia's ten deputy prime ministers, and a Russian military band, but Putin was not present.
Later, Russian media showed Xi's motorcade driving through the city ahead of three days of meetings, during which he is expected to tout a supposedly framework for ending the conflict, which has received a lukewarm response from the West.
China has recently attempted to improve its image by portraying itself as a proponent of peace and defending its relationship with Russia as beneficial to global stability. Last month, Beijing issued a vaguely worded position paper on the "political solution" to Ukraine's conflict.
Following the announcement of Xi's trip to Moscow on Friday, the White House expressed concern about potential Chinese proposals that would be "one-sided and reflect only the Russian perspective."
A proposal for a ceasefire, for example, which China has repeatedly called for, would merely allow Russia to regroup before launching retaliation, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
The visit is expected to serve as a forum for the two countries to deepen their close strategic alignment, which includes diplomatic coordination, joint military training, and robust trade. Xi said in a statement released after his arrival on Monday:
In the face of a turbulent and changing world, China is willing to continue to work with Russia to firmly safeguard the international order.- Xi
In separate letters published in each other's national state-run media outlets ahead of the visit, Putin and Xi both touted the "new impetus" their meeting would bring to their bilateral relationship.
Both used the letters to condemn "hegemony," an allusion to their common goal of opposing what they see as a US-led world order.
During his visit to Moscow, Xi will need to tread carefully. At stake for the Chinese leader is whether he can strengthen ties with a partner China sees as critical to countering perceived US dominance while not alienating a Europe wary of the China-Russia relationship.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping celebrated his 66th birthday alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Tajik capital Dushanbe in 2019
Putin launched his invasion just days after he and Xi declared a "no-limits" alliance in February.
Since then, China has claimed neutrality while supporting Kremlin rhetoric blaming NATO for the conflict, refusing to condemn the invasion and continuing to financially support Moscow by significantly increasing purchases of Russian fuel.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously stated publicly his desire to speak with Xi about the conflict, though communication between the two countries has not progressed beyond the ministerial level since the war began.
Following a Wall Street Journal report that the two were planning to speak for the first time after Xi's then-potential Moscow trip, Ukrainian, Chinese, and US officials all declined last week to confirm a potential virtual meeting between Zelensky and Xi.
In contrast, this week's state visit marks Putin and Xi's 40th meeting since the Chinese leader took power in 2012.
The personal chemistry between the two authoritarian leaders is widely regarded as a key driver of the countries' recent tightening ties - and will be closely scrutinized during the visit.
Previous meetings between the leaders have highlighted that rapport, with photo opportunities including Putin presenting Xi with ice cream on his 66th birthday during a 2019 meeting in Tajikistan, and the two cooking Russian pancakes together on the sidelines of a forum in Vladivostok in 2018.
The two last met in person in September at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, as part of Xi's first overseas trip since the pandemic, which prevented him from traveling for nearly three years.
Putin, who referred to Xi as his "good old friend" in a letter published in Chinese state media on Monday, is expected to use the meeting to demonstrate to domestic audiences that Russia is not isolated on the global stage.