(Bloomberg) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off the second day of his state visit to Moscow Tuesday with talks with Russia’s prime minister, following more than four hours of conversations the day before with Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a major topic for the leaders, according to both sides, with Putin saying before the meeting that he’s ready to discuss China’s initiative for ending the war. Xi also invited Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to visit China, Interfax reported.
The US and its allies have rejected those proposals as biased toward Russia, and Ukraine has been cool, as well. Xi is expected to speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time since the February 2022 invasion after his Russia visit.
Xi’s visit, his first trip abroad since claiming a third term earlier this month, sends a strong signal of support for Putin amid efforts by the US and its allies to isolate him over his invasion. Russia has become increasingly dependent on China for trade with other markets cut off, but there were few indications that this visit would bring new deals.
Putin and Xi “had an in-depth exchange of views on the Ukraine issue,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. It added that “most countries support easing tensions,” but the ministry didn’t go into further details on the topic.
China would continue to strengthen strategic coordination with Russia, Xi also said, according to the statement.
After the meeting with Mishustin in the government offices known as the White House Tuesday morning, Xi is scheduled to head to the Kremlin for formal talks with Putin and top Russian officials. The two sides are expected to sign several declarations, and Xi and Putin will make press statements before a state dinner in the Tsarist-era Palace of Facets.
China’s cease-fire paper has little detail and largely consists of broader foreign policy positions long espoused by Beijing. While its embrace of the principle of territorial integrity won praise in Kyiv, which seeks to drive Russian forces back across the border, a cease-fire call that would freeze forces in current positions is a non-starter.
For Putin, Xi is by far the most significant international leader to visit since the invasion, which triggered Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II and waves of sanctions by the US and its allies. Xi’s arrival comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest on charges of war crimes. Russia has dismissed the move, and China called for the court to avoid politicization.
The Chinese leader last visited Russia in mid-2019, while Putin went to Beijing in early 2022 to attend the opening of the Winter Olympics. At that meeting the two leaders agreed to a “no-limits” friendship and signed a series of long-term energy supply deals.
The two met in September last year at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Forum, where Putin said he understands Beijing’s “questions and concerns” about his invasion of Ukraine, a rare admission of tensions between the diplomatic allies.
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