China announces Xi’s Russia visit day after minister’s rare phone call to Kyiv

Mar 17, 2023 01:47 PM IST

The announcement of the visit comes a day after China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, called for peace talks during a phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia from March 20 to 22, the Chinese foreign ministry and the Kremlin announced on Friday, a month after Beijing floated a 12-point peace plan in an attempt to end the conflict triggered by Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

This photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, and China's President Xi Jinping. China says Xi will visit Russia from March 22 (AP File)
This photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, and China's President Xi Jinping. China says Xi will visit Russia from March 22 (AP File)

The announcement of the visit comes a day after China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, called for peace talks during a phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.

Beijing has so far refused to describe Moscow’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine as an invasion and instead blamed the US and NATO for provoking Moscow.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Friday.

In Moscow, the news agency Associated Press quoted a statement issued by the Kremlin which announced that Xi and Putin would discuss “issues of further development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China,” and exchange views “in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena”. The report described Xi’s visit as an apparent show of support for President Putin.

China is concerned about the escalation of the war in Ukraine and the situation spiralling out of control, Qin told Kuleba on Thursday evening amid speculation that Xi is also likely to soon speak with Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“We hope that Russia and Ukraine will keep hope for dialogue and negotiation, and will not close the door to a political solution, no matter how difficult and challenging it is. China will continue to play a constructive role for a ceasefire to stop the war, ease the crisis and restore peace,” Qin said.

News agency AFP said Xi last visited Russia in 2019, while Putin attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing last year. The two leaders also met at a regional security gathering in Uzbekistan in September.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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