(CNN) Xi Jinping Vladimir landed in Moscow for meetings with Putin, the first time a Chinese leader has visited its neighbor and close strategic partner since Russia began a provocation. Invasion of Ukraine.
Xi’s visit comes days after Putin was indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague Committing war crimes Ukraine issued a warrant for his arrest.
Ukraine is expected to be a key topic of discussion during Xi’s three-day visit. Ingrained conflict It has killed tens of thousands of people and triggered a massive humanitarian crisis.
Unless the Chinese leader can somehow deliver a concrete diplomatic breakthrough, Xi’s trip could be seen in some Western capitals as a ringing endorsement of the Russian leader in the face of broad international condemnation of his war.
“One way or another, touched topics [Beijing’s peace] The project, of course, will inevitably be touched upon during the exchange of views with Ukraine [between Putin and Xi],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.
“Of course, President Putin will provide full briefings [Chinese] President Xi Jinping can see the current situation directly from the Russian side,” he added.
China has described the visit as a “journey of friendship, cooperation and peace” amid Beijing’s push to be a key supporter of resolving the conflict.
But Western leaders have expressed skepticism about China’s peacekeeping role and its claims of neutrality. Instead, the US and its allies have warned China since last month Sending assisted dying is considered To Russia for its war effort, Beijing refused.
On top of the table
Xi’s visit is expected to provide a platform for the two countries to further deepen their close strategic alignment, which includes diplomatic coordination, joint military exercises and stronger trade.
In a statement issued after Xi landed on Monday, the Chinese leader said: “In the face of a turbulent and changing world, China is ready to continue working with Russia to firmly safeguard the international order.”
Dmitry Chernyshenko, one of Russia’s 10 deputy prime ministers, greeted Xi upon his arrival at Vnukovo airport near Moscow.
Both Putin and Xi said in separate letters to each other published in state-run media ahead of the visit that their meeting would bring “new impetus” to their bilateral relationship.
Both also used the letters to denounce “hegemony” — a reference to their shared intention to push back against what they see as a US-led world order.
Xi should tread carefully during his trip to Moscow. What is at stake for the Chinese leader is whether he can strengthen ties with an ally that China sees as crucial to countering US hegemony without alienating Europe, which is increasingly wary of Sino-Russian relations.
Putin launched his invasion days after he and Xi announced it “No Limits” Partnership Last February.
Since then, China has demanded neutrality but has supported Kremlin rhetoric that blames NATO for the conflict, refuses to condemn the invasion and continues to financially support Moscow. Purchases will increase significantly Russian fuel.
China has recently sought to rehabilitate its image, portraying itself as a proponent of peace and defending its relationship with Russia as good for global stability. Last month, Beijing issued a Ambiguously worded position paper A “political solution” to the conflict in Ukraine.
Following the announcement of Xi’s visit to Moscow on Friday, the White House expressed concern about possible plans by China that are “one-sided and reflect only the Russian perspective.”
For example, a proposal for a ceasefire — which China has repeatedly called for — would give Russia a way to regroup before launching retaliation, said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Kiev is also expected to be watching the proceedings closely, and on Monday reiterated that any plan for peace must begin with a Russian withdrawal.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted on Monday: “The formula for the successful implementation of China’s “peace plan.” First and foremost is the surrender or withdrawal of Russian occupation forces from the territory of Ukraine. According to international law and the UN Charter…sovereignty , for the restoration of independence and territorial integrity.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly expressed interest in discussing the conflict with Xi in the past, although contact between the two countries has not reached higher than Ukraine’s ministerial level since the war began.
Ukrainian, Chinese and US officials all declined to confirm a possible virtual meeting between Zelensky and Xi last week, following a Wall Street Journal report that the two planned to speak for the first time since Xi’s then-possible trip to Moscow.
By contrast, this week’s state visit marks the fortieth meeting between Putin and Xi since the Chinese leader took office in 2012.
The Personal chemistry The spat between the two authoritarian leaders is widely seen as a key driver of tightening ties between the countries in recent years — and will be closely examined during the visit.
Past meetings between the leaders, including photographs, have fully showcased that rapport Putin presented Xi with ice cream On his 66th birthday during a 2019 meeting in Tajikistan, and on the sidelines of a forum in Vladivostok in 2018, the two cooked Russian pancakes together.
The two last met in person during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in September Ji’s first trip abroad Almost three consecutive years without travel during the pandemic.
Putin, who referred to Xi as his “good old friend” in a letter published on Chinese state media on Monday, is expected to hold the meeting domestically as proof that Russia is not isolated on the world stage.
But with the war in Ukraine hanging over the visit, it remains to be seen how much Xi will try to play up that optics.
However, the two leaders have already set the stage for the meeting to boost bilateral cooperation.
During the visit, they will “jointly adopt a new vision, a new plan and new measures for the development of China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperation in the coming years,” Xi wrote in a letter published in Russian state media on Monday.
The meeting is expected to begin with a one-on-one meeting, followed by an “informal lunch” on Monday, and talks will continue on Tuesday, a Kremlin spokesman said last week.
CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed reporting