17 May 2024, 10:30

Putin in trade push on final day of China trip

BEIJING, May 17, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Russian leader Vladimir Putin was in the
northeastern city of Harbin on Friday, the final day of a visit aiming to
promote crucial trade with China and win greater support for his war effort
in Ukraine.

Putin arrived Thursday on his first trip abroad since his March re-election,
meeting President Xi Jinping for talks in which the leaders framed their
nations' ties as a stabilising force in a chaotic world.

China and Russia's strategic partnership has only grown closer since the
invasion of Ukraine, and Beijing has rebuffed Western claims that it is
aiding Moscow's war effort.

China has also offered a critical lifeline to Russia's isolated economy, with
trade booming since the invasion and hitting $240 billion in 2023, according
to Chinese customs figures.

Putin's trip to Harbin is part of efforts to enhance that economic

Lying just a few hundred kilometres from the border with Russia, the city has
long served as a key hub for cross-border trade and cultural exchange.

The Russian president will attend the opening ceremony of a Russia-China
trade expo on Friday, Moscow's state news agency TASS reported, and will be
accompanied by Han Zheng, China's vice president.

Putin will hold a press conference with Russian media later in the day.

- Western criticism -

The Russian leader's arrival came hours after he hailed his country's troops
for advancing on "all fronts" on the battlefield in Ukraine, following a
major new ground assault.

Western countries have meanwhile been mounting pressure on China to cut off
support for Russia's economy.

After Washington vowed to go after financial institutions that facilitate
Moscow, Chinese exports to Russia dipped in March and April, down from a
surge early in the year.

In a statement to the media following talks with Putin, Xi said the two sides
agreed on the need for a "political solution" to resolving the war.

The two men later ditched their ties for a less formal meeting over tea at
the palatial Zhongnanhai leadership compound.

China's state broadcaster aired footage of Xi embracing Putin following their
talks, which saw the Chinese leader express support for an "international
peace conference recognized by Russia and Ukraine".

There are no indications Moscow and Kyiv are prepared to engage in direct
talks, which Ukraine says would only be used by Russia to buy time to prepare
for a new assault.

Hours after Xi and Putin met, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said
that China couldn't "have its cake and eat it too" with regard to the West
and Moscow.

"It can't have it both ways and want to have (better) relationships with
Europe and other countries while simultaneously continuing to fuel the
biggest threat to European security in a long time," Patel said, referring to
Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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