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Putin to visit China in May

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to China in May for talks with Xi Jinping, in what could be the Kremlin chief’s first overseas trip of his new presidential term, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, October 18, 2023. File picture: Sputnik, Sergei Guneev

By Laurie Chen, Yew Lun Tian and Guy Faulconbridge

BEIJING/MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to China in May for talks with Xi Jinping, in what could be the Kremlin chief’s first overseas trip of his new presidential term, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

Western governments on Monday condemned Putin’s re-election as unfair and undemocratic. But China, India and North Korea congratulated the veteran leader on extending his rule by a further six years, highlighting geopolitical fault lines that have widened since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

“Putin will visit China,” one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. The details were independently confirmed by four other sources, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another of the sources said Putin’s trip to China would probably take place in the second half of May. Two of the sources said the Putin visit would come before Xi’s planned trip to Europe.

The Kremlin, when asked about the Reuters report, said information on Putin’s visits would be released closer to the date.

“Several presidential visits and several high-level contacts are being prepared at the moment,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “We will inform you as we get closer.”

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China and Russia declared a “no limits” partnership in February 2022 when Putin visited Beijing just days before he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, triggering the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two.

The United States casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat while US President Joe Biden argues that this century will be defined by an existential contest between democracies and autocracies.

Putin and Xi share a broad world view, which sees the West as decadent and in decline just as China challenges U.S. supremacy in everything from quantum computing and synthetic biology to espionage and hard military power.

PUTIN AND XI

China has strengthened its trade and military ties with Russia in recent years as the United States and its allies imposed sanctions against both countries, particularly Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign diplomats and observers said they expected Putin to make China his first stop after being re-elected. Putin’s formal presidential inauguration is due to take place around May 7.

Putin told reporters on Sunday that Russia and China shared a similar global outlook and enjoyed resilient relations in part due to his good personal relations with Xi, and that Moscow and Beijing would develop ties further in coming years.

Xi visited Russia in his first post-pandemic overseas trip in March last year, shortly after commencing his precedent-breaking third term as Chinese president.

The two leaders have often touted their close personal friendship and have met over 40 times, most recently in October when Putin was the guest of honour at China’s Belt and Road summit in Beijing.

China-Russia trade hit $218.2 billion during January-November, according to Chinese customs data, exceeding a goal to increase bilateral trade to over $200 billion by 2024 that was set by the two countries.

Xi, in a call with Putin last month, said both sides should resolutely oppose interference in domestic affairs by external forces, indicating the U.S.

Chinese vice foreign minister Sun Weidong said bilateral ties were “at their best in history” when meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow last month, according to a Chinese foreign ministry readout.

China is considering taking part in a peace conference aimed at ending the war in Ukraine to be hosted by neutral Switzerland in the coming months, its ambassador to Bern told local media on Monday.

Beijing launched a 12-point Ukraine “peace” plan last year but so far has not taken significant steps to resolve the conflict besides attending Western-led peace talks in Jeddah last summer.

China’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs Li Hui met officials in five European capitals including Moscow and Kyiv earlier this month.

– REUTERS

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