Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Vladimir Putin that his actions on Ukraine were legitimate, reasserting China’s support for the Russian president on issues of sovereignty and security, according to Moscow’s official readout of their phone call.
Xi told Putin that he “noted the legitimacy of the actions taken by Russia to protect the fundamental national interests in the face of challenges to its security created by external forces”, the Sydney Morning Herald reports quoting AP, Bloomberg, and Reuters.
China has refused to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or even to refer to it in such terms, while accusing NATO and the West of provoking Moscow into attacking.
Xi said “all parties should responsibly push for a proper settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” according to Beijing’s readout of the call. He has sought to avoid repercussions from supporting the Russian economy amid international sanctions.
The Kremlin said in its account of the call that Putin “outlined his fundamental assessments of the situation in Ukraine”.
In February, before the Russian attack, Putin and Xi met in Beijing and oversaw the signing of an agreement pledging that relations between the sides would have “no limits”. It remains unclear whether Xi knew at the time of Russia’s plan to invade Ukraine.
In that meeting, the two leaders pushed back against US pressure, declaring their opposition to any expansion of NATO and affirming that Taiwan is a part of China.
Xi told Putin on Wednesday that China “was willing to work with the Russian side to promote the steady and long-term development of bilateral pragmatic co-operation,” Xinhua reported.
“China is willing to, together with Russia, continue to support each other on issues concerning core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security.”
Beijing’s readout of the call reported the conversation differently to Moscow, saying Xi “noted that Russia is ready to strengthen multilateral coordination with China so as to make constructive efforts in boosting multipolarisation of the world, and establishing a more just and reasonable international order.
“The two heads of state also exchanged views on the Ukraine issue. Xi emphasised that China has always independently assessed the situation on the basis of the historical context and the merits of the issue, and actively promoted world peace and the stability of the global economic order.”
Moscow and Beijing have increasingly aligned their foreign policies to oppose liberal democratic forces in Asia, Europe and beyond, making a stand for authoritarian rule with tight borders and little regard for free speech, minority rights or opposition politics.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Mario Draghi are planning to visit Ukraine on Thursday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The three European leaders would be the highest-profile visit to Ukraine since the invasion.