(Photo by Sergei Bobylyov/Contributor via Getty Images)
OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 12:46 PM – Monday, March 20, 2023
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met at the Kremlin on the first day of a state visit that Beijing was hosting as a peacemaking initiative, despite strong skepticism in Kyiv and the West.
They praised the close connections and strategic visions shared by both China and Russia.
This news comes a few days after the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, charged the Russian president with war crimes in Ukraine and issued an arrest warrant for him.
Xi made his first public appearance since Moscow began its official invasion of Ukraine last year.
The topic of Ukraine came up frequently during Xi’s visit, which was documented and closely watched for any potential effects on the ongoing conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and sparked severe humanitarian calamity.
“In the last few years, China has made a colossal leap forward… In the whole world, this evokes interest, and unfortunately even envy,” Putin told Xi on Monday.
“Under your leadership, Russia’s development has substantially improved,” Xi responded as he addressed Putin as his “dear friend.”
In an effort to position itself as a major advocate for the conflict’s resolution, Beijing had framed the trip as a “tour of friendship, cooperation, and peace” by China.
In spite of widespread criticism of the Russian president’s war, Xi’s visit was viewed in some Western capitals as an evident support of Putin.
Top US Diplomat Antony Blinken (D-N.Y.) said that the visit showed China’s intention to “diplomatically cover” Russia’s atrocities in the Ukrainian war.
“That President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, and instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes,” proclaimed Blinken, regarding the release of the 2022 Human Rights Report at a U.S. State Department conference.
Today we released the 47th annual Human Rights Report. #2022HRR demonstrates our commitment to advancing human rights across the globe. I invite you to take a moment and read the full report: https://t.co/yfDofbHrxK
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 20, 2023
Despite repeatedly refusing to engage with Kiev about withdrawing from Ukrainian soil, Putin reiterated to Xi that he was “always open to the negotiation process” during the public portion of Monday’s meeting.
“We studied closely your proposals on the settlement on the acute crisis in Ukraine,” Putin shared with Xi.
“Of course, we will have opportunity to discuss the issue. We know that you are based on the principles of justice and commitment to the fundamental points of international law… We will certainly discuss all these issues, including your initiative,” Putin stated.
Western leaders have voiced skepticism about China’s potential peacebuilding role and their claimed neutrality.
American allies have warned that China is considering sending drones and ammunition to Russia, but Beijing currently denies this.
Kiev is also expected to closely monitor procedures, reiterating on Monday that any peace plan must first begin with Russia’s withdrawal from its territory.
“We expect Beijing to use its influence on Moscow to make it put an end to the aggressive war against Ukraine,” said Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.
“Restoring territorial integrity of Ukraine should be at the core of every diplomatic effort… We stand ready to engage in a closer dialogue with China in order to restore peace in Ukraine in accordance with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, and the latest UNGA resolution on this matter,” Nikolenko continued.
Xi’s visit comes just days after the ICC effectively put Putin on the wanted list in exactly 123 countries that would allow him to be brought to court, while the Russian leader continues to pursue a bloody, costly war in Ukraine – intensifying its isolation from the rest of the world.
Upon his arrival at Vnukovo Airport near Moscow, he was met by by Dmitry Chernyshenko, one of Russia’s ten deputy prime ministers, as well as a Russian military band. However, the Russian president was not there for the meet-and-greet.
Russian media followed Xi’s convoy through the city ahead of a three-day meeting where he is expected to announce a framework to end the war. However, this media coverage received an apathetic response from the West afterward.
Recently, China has tried to rebuild its image, positioning itself as a peace advocate and defending its relationship with Russia as a good thing for worldwide stability. Xi published a written opinion in ambiguous terms about the solution of the problem.
“China’s proposal includes elements that we have long supported, including ensuring nuclear safety, resolving the humanitarian crisis, protecting civilians and, indeed, the first element calls for upholding sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all counties… The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms,” Blinken concluded.
The visit aims to provide a platform to further strengthen the close strategic ties between the two nations, including diplomatic coordination, prosperous trade, and joint military exercises.
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