Putin in China for talks with 'dear friend' Xi Jinping

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing for the Belt and Road Initiative forum. It is Putin's first visit to China since February 2022, weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine

Putin's visit to China bolsters the Russia-China partnership amid Western sanctions. (photo: DW)
Putin's visit to China bolsters the Russia-China partnership amid Western sanctions. (photo: DW)


Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, where he is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum on Wednesday, 18 October.

Putin was met by an honor guard at Beijing's airport. In a transcript released by the Kremlin on Monday, 16 October ahead of the visit, Putin praised the BRI, and dismissed concerns that the infrastructure projects saddle recipient countries with debt.

"We see that some people consider it an attempt by the People's Republic of China to put someone under its thumb, but we see otherwise, we just see desire for cooperation," Putin told state broadcaster CCTV, according to the Kremlin.

Xi and Putin met Tuesday evening, 17 October at the Great Hall of the People for an evening banquet organized to kick off the forum, where the Russian President is a "chief guest".

A video published by Russia's foreign ministry showed them shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries.

Putin will address the forum on Wednesday, 18 October Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Later Wednesday, Xi and Putin are due to meet for bilateral talks.

Putin meets Orban in Beijing

Putin met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in China on Tuesday. Orban has maintained ties with the Kremlin despite widespread condemnation of Russia's ongoing war of aggression on Ukraine.

In statements carried on Russian news agencies, Putin claimed that Russia is "satisfied" that Russia's "ties with many European countries are maintained and developed. One of those countries is Hungary," the Russian president added.

Along with Hungary, only Slovakia and Bulgaria have shown a similar low level of support for EU sanctions on Russia, according to a 2022 "Eurobarometer" survey.

Hungary has opposed many EU initiatives resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supporting Ukraine. The country also gets most of its crude oil and gas from Russia

Putin is also scheduled to talk with the leaders of Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia and Laos on Tuesday, according to Russian media reports.

Why is the visit significant?

China and Russia have forged stronger ties since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the Russian president's regime becoming more isolated internationally following Western sanctions.

The Beijing visit is only Putin's second known trip abroad, since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him in March over the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine.

Both leaders have described one another as "dear friends."

"President Xi Jinping calls me his friend, and I call him my friend, too," Putin told Chinese state broadcaster CGTN ahead of his visit, according to a Kremlin readout.

He met Xi last briefly after the arrest warrant, during a trip to Russia by the Chinese president. Xi had invited Putin at the time to attend the BRI forum.

Putin was last in Beijing in February 2022 during the Winter Olympics, right before Russia invaded Ukraine. Both countries at the time declared a "no-limits" partnership, which triggered Western suspicion of China's stance on the invasion.

Beijing has insisted that its ties with Moscow do not violate international norms, as it consistently refused to condemn the invasion, preferring instead a more neutral stance.

This year's forum is scheduled to run through Wednesday. Putin attended two previous BRI forums in 2017 and 2019.

The BRI was launched by Xi a decade ago as a keystone project aimed at expanding China's global influence by building global infrastructure and energy networks connecting Asia with Africa and Europe.

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Published: 18 Oct 2023, 10:20 AM