Xi Jinping will visit Russia for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Moscow next week, where he will hold talks with his strategic ally Vladimir Putin, just over a year after Russia’s war in Ukraine began.

Xi will be in Russia Monday through Wednesday, Beijing’s foreign ministry and the Kremlin said Friday.

China’s Foreign Ministry called Xi’s trip a “peace visit” whose purpose was to “practice true multilateralism…improve global governance and contribute to the development and progress of the world.”

The two leaders will exchange views on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues, ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference.

“Currently, changes unseen in a century are unfolding at a rapid pace, and the world has entered a new period of upheaval,” he said.

“China will uphold its objective and fair position on the Ukrainian crisis and play a constructive role in advancing the peace talks.”

The Kremlin said the two presidents would talk about “strategic cooperation” and “discuss deepening the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China.”

Xi’s visit comes just over a year after Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking a war that isolated Moscow on the international stage.

China, a major ally of Russia, has sought to position itself as a neutral side in the conflict, urging Moscow and Kyiv to resolve it through negotiations.

ALSO READ: Xi Jinping wins historic third term as China’s leader

In a 12-point position paper on the war last month, China called for dialogue and respect for the territorial sovereignty of all countries.

But Western leaders have repeatedly criticized Beijing for not condemning the invasion, accusing it of giving Moscow diplomatic cover for its war.

The United States has accused China of mulling arms shipments to support a war with Russia. Beijing categorically denies these accusations.

– Si peacemaker? –

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in February he planned to meet with Xi after Beijing called for talks.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday did not confirm whether it plans to do so.

But on Thursday, the two countries’ foreign ministers held a telephone conversation, the first since Chinese leader Qin Gang took office.

Qin called on Kiev and Moscow to resume peace talks “as soon as possible,” adding that “China is concerned that the crisis could escalate and get out of control,” the official statement said.

His Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, said the call included a discussion of “the meaning of the principle of territorial integrity,” but did not provide details.

Former socialist allies with a tumultuous relationship, in recent years, China and Russia have deepened cooperation in the economic, military and political sectors in what they call a “no limits” partnership.

Both sides have often stressed the close relationship between Putin and Xi, who this month began his third five-year term in a breach of longstanding precedent.

Xi last visited Russia in 2019, while Putin attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing last year, and the two leaders also met at a regional security meeting in Uzbekistan in September.

ALSO READ: China’s assertive foreign policy under President Xi

Xi, 69, also facilitated a Chinese-brokered deal to restore relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran last week.

“Whether (China) is actually ramping up its efforts for a meaningful peacemaker role will depend on the substance of what it offers during meetings with the leaders of Ukraine and Russia,” said Ja-Ian Chong, an assistant professor at the National University. Singapore.

“Their previous peace plan was more based on general principles than practical proposals,” a Chinese foreign policy specialist told AFP.

– Fighters –

The announcement of Xi’s visit came after Poland said on Thursday it would deliver the first batch of four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the first such delivery by a NATO member.

On Friday, Slovakia offered Kyiv 13 MiG-29 combat aircraft, which has long requested fighters from its Western allies ahead of an expected surge in hostilities in the spring.

“We will transfer 13 of our MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine,” Prime Minister Eduard Heger told reporters, adding that Bratislava will also supply Ukraine with the Kub air defense system.

The batch will include 10 active aircraft and three more that have not been used since 2008.

Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said the transfer would take “a couple of weeks”.

“Our steps are fully aligned with Poland and Ukraine,” Heger said, adding that his government “is on the right side of history.”

Ukraine was primarily looking for modern American-made F-16s.

ALSO READ: China’s economy is growing, but Xi’s new power scares investors

On Friday, the Kremlin said the fighter jets donated to Ukraine by Poland and Slovakia would be destroyed and reiterated that Western arms supplies to Kyiv would not change Russia’s military goals.

“The delivery of this military equipment – ​​as we have repeatedly said – will not change the outcome of the special operation… Of course, all this equipment will be destroyed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, using the official term for Moscow’s military intervention.