Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow Monday for meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It’s the first time Xi has visited Russia since the country invaded its sovereign neighbor, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022.
Xi’s visit comes just three days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague announced it had issued an arrest warrant for Putin for alleged war crimes in Russia—specifically over the Russian President’s alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children. Neither Russia, China nor the U.S. is a member of the ICC.
The visit offers a diplomatic boost for Putin as Western leaders have sought to isolate him over the war in Ukraine, which is expected to dominate discussions between Xi and Putin.
“I am pleased to once again set foot on the soil of our friendly neighbor Russia,” Xi said in a statement after arriving in Moscow Monday.
On Sunday in China’s flagship newspaper, the Chinese Communist Party, Putin said he had high hopes for the visit with his “good old friend.” He further welcomed China’s willingness to make a “meaningful contribution” in finding a solution to end the war.
Xi followed up on Monday with an article in the newspaper promoting China’s peace plan for Ukraine, saying it “reflects the broadest common understanding of the international community on the crisis.” However, the 12-point proposal has been dismissed by the West as too favorable to Russia.
Despite China officially taking a neutral stance in the war, in February of 2022 ahead of Russia’s invasion, China and Russia struck a “no limits” partnership while Putin was visiting Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics there.
Last month, the United States accused China of following up its “rhetorical, political, diplomatic support to Russia” with considering “providing lethal support to Russia in the war against Ukraine.” The White House further asserted that there would be consequences should China go through with that plan.
Xi’s visit to Russia is scheduled for Monday through Wednesday. According to the Kremlin, Putin and Xi will sign “important” bilateral documents during their meetings, including two joint statements—one on “comprehensive strategic partnership” and another on economic cooperation.
Xi is also expected to speak via remote with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after his trip to Russia. And after China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on Thursday, expectations have risen that Xi might make a physical trip to Ukraine as part of a larger tour of Europe later in the week.
In Kyiv on Monday, Ukrainian leadership reiterated that any plan for peace must start with a Russia’s military withdrawal.