Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced Friday. This will be Xi’s first visit to Moscow since the beginning of Russia-Ukraine war which has entered its second year. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at the daily briefing in Beijing on Friday that Xi will have an in-depth exchange of views with President Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern, promote strategic cooperation and practical cooperation between the two countries, and inject new impetus into the development of bilateral relations.

“Currently, the world is entering a new period of turbulences and reform with the accelerated evolution of changes of the century. As permanent members of the UN Security Council and important major countries, the significance and impact of the China-Russia relations go far beyond the bilateral sphere,” he added.

Western governments have criticized China of not doing enough to stop the war in Ukraine. The visit comes after the destruction of a U.S. drone over the Black Sea following an encounter with Russian fighter jets, which brought the two countries closest to direct conflict since the war began.

China has also released a position paper on Russia-Ukraine war in which it says is “China’s fair and objective position on Ukraine issue.” However, Chinese President has not yet spoken to Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the beginning of Russia-Ukraine war after Xi and Putin declared a “no-limits” friendship in February last year February.

Observers say, Xi’s visit to Russia may be seen as support to Russian President as Xi embarks on his third tenure as Chinese President with a team of loyalists. China’s top diplomat Wang Yi met Putin in Moscow last month apparently to prepare for Xi’s visit where Wang vowed to “further strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership.”

The Kremlin also announced Xi’s visit on Friday, saying Xi and Putin will discuss “issues of further development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China,” as well as exchange views “in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena.” “A number of important bilateral documents will be signed,” the statement read.

The west led by US has accused China of considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, which has been denied by Beijing. China has said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, while condemning Western sanctions and accusing NATO and the United States of provoking Russia into military action.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday, that Beijing was concerned about the year-old conflict spinning out of control and urged talks on a political solution with Moscow.

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