Russia Ukraine war: Xi meets Putin today in boost for Russian leader after ICC issued arrest warrant
China’s President Xi Jinping is set to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow today in a show of support for the isolated Russian despot after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him over war crimes in Ukraine.
During his visit, Xi will present China as a global peacemaker intent on brokering an end to the Ukraine war – a move that has been met with skepticism in Kyiv and the West, with world leaders questioning the real motive behind Beijing’s plan for peace.
Indeed, Beijing has not offered any concrete proposals to end the war other than a 12-point ‘peace plan’ which included China calling for an end to Western sanctions, negotiations that would see Ukraine ceding territory, a NATO pull-back from its eastern borders and reconstruction efforts that would likely benefit Chinese contractors.
Meanwhile, Putin will attempt to present Xi’s trip – the first world leader to visit since the International Criminal Court charged the Russian leader with war crimes – as evidence that Russia has a powerful friend prepared to stand with it against a hostile West that it says is trying to isolate and defeat it.
Despite its calls for peace, China has continued to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia and parroted the Kremlin’s talking points about NATO expansionism.
China’s President Xi Jinping is set to meet Vladimir Putin (pictured together in September) in Moscow today in a show of support for the isolated Russian despot after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him over war crimes in Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen fire an artillery called M777 howitzer cannon aiming at Russian positions in the frontline nearby Bakhmut in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine on March 18
In an article published at the beginning of his visit to Moscow, Xi said China’s 12 point peace plan, which was released last month, reflects global views and seeks to neutralize consequences, but acknowledged that solutions are not easy.
‘Complex problems do not have simple solutions,’ said Xi.
Ukraine and its Western backers would be likely to dismiss any attempt to secure a ceasefire as little more than a ploy to buy Putin time to reinforce, and delay a widely expected Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he will only consider peace settlements after Russian troops leave Ukrainian territory.
China’s proposal contains only general statements and no concrete proposal on how to end the year-long war in which tens of thousands of people have been killed, cities have been destroyed and millions forced to flee.
In an article for a Chinese newspaper, published on the Kremlin website, Putin said he had high hopes for the visit by his “good old friend” Xi, with whom he signed a “no limits” strategic partnership last year. He also welcomed China’s willingness to mediate.
‘We are grateful for the balanced line … in connection with the events taking place in Ukraine, for understanding their background and true causes. We welcome China’s willingness to play a constructive role in resolving the crisis,’ Putin said.
The United States and its allies are deeply skeptical of China’s motives, noting it has declined to condemn Russia and provided it with an economic lifeline as other countries heap sanctions on it.
The United States and NATO have recently accused China of considering supplying arms to Russia and warned it against doing so. China has dismissed the allegations.
Xi’s visit will be an important one for Putin – as it is the first visit from a world leader since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian despot over the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia since the start of the war. .
For Ukraine, the visit will be met with apprehension as Kyiv fears China may ultimately decide to supply its strategic ally with arms, influencing the outcome of the war.
‘Ukraine’s expectations are at a minimum level: for things not to deteriorate,’ Sergiy Solodky, first deputy director of the New Europe Center think tank in Kyiv, said.
The topic is so sensitive that Ukrainian authorities do not wish to comment publicly on the trip, planned from Monday to Wednesday during which Putin and Xi are supposed to meet at least twice.
‘Ukraine will follow this visit closely,’ a senior Ukrainian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
‘For us it is critically important that China maintains its policy of unwavering respect for the territorial integrity of other countries,’ the official said, in reference to how Russia has claimed the annexation of five Ukrainian regions.
Ukrainian soldiers fire at the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Saturday
Justice ministers from around the world will meet in London on Monday to discuss support for the International Criminal Court after it issued an arrest warrant for Putin.
‘We are gathering in London today united by one cause: to hold war criminals to account for the atrocities committed in Ukraine during this unjust, unprovoked and illegal invasion,’ British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said.
Several European Union countries will sign an agreement on Monday in Brussels to buy 155 mm artillery shells for Ukraine, with the first orders possibly placed by the end of May.
Ukraine has identified the supply of the shells as critical, with both sides firing thousands of rounds every day.
In Ukraine, fierce fighting continued in the eastern town of Bakhmut with each side launching counter offensives. Ukrainian forces have held out in Bakhmut since last summer in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.
Giving its regular morning roundup from the front, Ukraine’s military said defenders in Bakhmut, Lyman, Ivanivske, Bohdanivka and Hryhorivka – all towns in the Donetsk region – had repelled 69 Russian attacks in the past day. Bakhmut remains the epicenter of hostilities, it said.
It also said that Russian forces were on the defensive in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions to the south.
Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which is spearheading the assault on Bakhmut and has suffered heavy losses, plans to recruit some 30,000 new fighters by the middle of May, its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Saturday.
In January, the United States assessed that Wagner had about 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, including 40,000 convicts Prigozhin had recruited from Russian prisons with a promise of a pardon if they survived six months.
Ukrainian officials have said that some 30,000 of Wagner’s fighters have deserted or been killed or wounded, a figure that could not be independently verified.