World, Front Page

Xi Jinping’s Russia visit

Xi-Putin lunch Monday, formal talks Tuesday

Published : 18 Mar 2023 01:59 AM | Updated : 18 Mar 2023 01:59 AM

The Kremlin said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet for an informal lunch with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the first of his two-day visit before holding formal talks Tuesday.

"Contacts between the president and (Xi) will begin on March 20 in the afternoon. It will be a face-to-face conversation. There will be an informal lunch. And 21 March will actually be the day of negotiations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"At the invitation of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22," Beijing’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday. It’s Xi’s first trip to Moscow in nearly four years.

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

The pair will talk about "strategic cooperation", according to a near-simultaneous statement from the Kremlin.

The two leaders "will discuss deepening the exhaustive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China", including on the international stage, the Kremlin said, adding, "important bilateral documents will be signed".

The visit will come just over a year into Moscow's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

China has sought to portray itself as a neutral party in the conflict, but its position has been criticised by some Western leaders as lacking credibility and providing tacit support for Moscow.

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

China and Russia are also strategic allies, with both sides frequently touting what they call a "no limits" partnership.

Beijing's foreign ministry did not confirm whether Xi also planned to hold a rumoured call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when asked at a routine press conference on Friday.

China's foreign minister on Thursday urged Kyiv and Moscow to restart peace talks "as soon as possible", while Kyiv said the call also raised the importance of Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Beijing "hopes that all parties will keep calm, exercise restraint, resume peace talks as soon as possible and return to the track of political settlement", Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call.