Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are scheduled for a second day of talks on Tuesday, as the internationally isolated Russian leader said he was open to discussing China’s proposals for fighting in Ukraine, and the US urged Xi to put pressure on him “to stop the war crimes”. .
Xi’s trip to Moscow is seen as a major boost for his strategic partner Putin, who is the subject of an international criminal warrant for illegally deporting Ukrainian children. The Chinese leader is expected to continue to position himself as a potential peacemaker in the war in Ukraine during his two-day visit to Russia – his first state visit since the invasion.
On Monday, Xi and Putin held talks for four and a half hours, calling each other “good friends”. The talks were accompanied by a six-course meal of quail and mushroom blini, fish and pomegranate sorbet, according to a menu released by a state media journalist. In a rare move, Putin walked Xi to his car after the talk and the two exchanged smiles.
Official negotiations are scheduled for Tuesday, the Kremlin said.
On Monday night, White House spokesman John Kirby said Xi should use his influence to pressure Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine and stop war crimes. A ceasefire – which was an integral part of China’s peace proposal released last month – would not be enough, he said.
“We hope President Xi will put pressure on President Putin to stop bombing Ukrainian cities, hospitals and schools; to stop war crimes and atrocities; and withdrew all his troops,” he said.
“But we fear that China may instead repeat its call for a ceasefire, leaving Russian troops in Ukrainian sovereign territory.” And any armistice that did not affect the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine would effectively ratify Russia’s illegal conquest, Russia allowing it to consolidate its position and then resume the war at a time more convenient for them.
The meeting between Xi and Putin will unexpectedly take place in Kyiv, where Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is on his way to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Kishida and Zelenskyy are expected to discuss Japanese support for Ukraine’s reconstruction. Tokyo joined the US and other countries in imposing sanctions on Russia, prompting the Kremlin to add Japan to its list of “enemy” countries.
With Japan set to host this year’s G7 summit in Hiroshima in May, Kishida is under pressure to end his status as the only group leader still visiting Kiev.
Kishida, who represents the chair of Hiroshima, has vowed to use his G7 presidency to advance nuclear disarmament as Russia has not ruled out using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed footage of Kishida boarding a train in the Polish border town of Przemyśl. He is also scheduled to hold talks with his Polish counterpart before returning to Japan on Thursday, the foreign ministry said.
During Monday’s meeting between Xi and Putin, the Russian leader said he was open to talks on Ukraine and praised Beijing’s 12-point position paper on the conflict. The document, released last month, largely reflects Beijing’s talking points on the war in Ukraine, with calls for dialogue, respect for the territorial sovereignty of all countries and an end to economic sanctions. He urged all countries to avoid nuclear escalation but stopped short of suggesting that Russia should withdraw its troops.
China has tried to present itself as a neutral party in the conflict in Ukraine, but Washington says Beijing’s move could be a “delay tactic” to help Moscow. The United States accuses Beijing of considering arms exports to Moscow, which China vehemently denies.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Xi’s visit to Moscow “demonstrates that China does not feel any responsibility to hold the president accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine.”
“And instead of condemning it altogether, it is better to give Russia diplomatic cover to continue to commit these grave crimes,” he added.
Zelenskyy said he would welcome talks with Xi, although there was no evidence of such a plan from Beijing.
In recent years, Moscow and Beijing have intensified their cooperation, driven by a desire to counter US global dominance.
Analysts say Xi’s efforts in Ukraine are unlikely to end hostilities, but his travels are being closely watched in western capitals.
Xi’s visit was praised by Chinese state media on Tuesday, with much of the coverage focusing on Xi’s comments and the strength of the bilateral relationship. None of the articles mention the recent ICC arrest warrant against Putin on suspicion of war crimes.
“The two countries are a good example of developing a new model of great-country relations that includes mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation,” Xi said.
The official Xinhua news agency said the exchanges between the two leaders were the “compass and anchor of China-Russia relations,” which were “filled with new dynamism and vitality” under Xi and Putin. Many reports have been written online about the face of the mast and a special page has been dedicated to the visit.
Russia views Xi’s trip, his first since his unprecedented third term earlier this month, as proof that he is not isolated from the world community as the war in Ukraine, now in its 13th month, continues.