BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday, in an apparent show of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin amid sharpening East-West tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine is expected to dominate Putin and Xi's discussions. China has refused to condemn Moscow’s aggression and sought to project itself as neutral in the conflict even while Beijing declared last year that it had a "no-limits" friendship with Russia.
The meeting between the leaders was announced by both countries on Friday.
China has said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, while condemning Western sanctions and accusing NATO and the United States of provoking Russia into military action.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing was concerned about the year-old conflict spinning out of control and urged talks on a political solution with Moscow.
China has "always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, has committed itself to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks," Qin said.
Kuleba later tweeted that he and Qin "discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity."
"I underscored the importance of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s)’s peace formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine," wrote Kuleba, who spoke the same day with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a daily briefing on Friday that Xi "will have an in-depth exchange of views with President Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern, promote strategic cooperation and practical cooperation between the two countries, and inject new impetus into the development of bilateral relations."
"Currently, the world is entering a new period of turbulences and reform with the accelerated evolution of changes of the century. As permanent members of the UN Security Council and important major countries, the significance and impact of the China-Russia relations go far beyond the bilateral sphere," he added.
The trip comes after the destruction of a U.S. drone over the Black Sea following an encounter with Russian fighter jets, which brought the two countries closest to direct conflict since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
The Kremlin on Friday also announced Xi's visit, saying it would take place "at the invitation of Vladimir Putin."
Xi and Putin will discuss "issues of further development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China," as well as exchange views "in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena," the Kremlin said in a statement.
The two leaders will also sign "important bilateral documents," the statement read.
Putin invited Xi to visit Russia during a video conference call the two held in late December. The visit, Putin said, could "demonstrate to the whole world the strength of the Russian-Chinese ties" and "become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations."