The Chinese government has disowned remarks by its Ambassador to France, who questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty.
While speaking to a French broadcaster on Monday, Ambassador Lu Shaye drew a parallel between Ukraine and the other former Soviet republics that declared their independence when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.
“With regards to international law, even these ex-Soviet Union countries, they do not, they do not have the status—how to say it?—that’s effective in international law, because there is no international agreement to solidify their status as a sovereign country,” he said.
Former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were among those who rejected Lu’s statement.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also reacted, saying, “China respects the sovereign status of the former Soviet countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.”
The Chinese Embassy in France further clarified Lu’s remarks, saying in a statement that the ambassador was not making a “political declaration, but an expression of his personal view during a televised debate.”
Lu’s words echoed those made repeatedly by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who does not recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty.
China officially took a neutral stance Ukraine-Russia war in February of 2022 ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, China and Russia struck a “no limits” partnership while Russian President Vladimir Putin was visiting Beijing for the opening of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping spent three days visiting Russia, during which he and Putin touted their friendship—though Xi made no direct statement of support for Russia’s war efforts.
Xi has yet to take up Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s invitation to visit Ukraine, nor is there any evidence that has he followed through on a suggestion that he would speak with Zelensky via remote chat following his visit to Russia.
However, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke by phone in a rare call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on March 16.
On April 14, China’s Foreign Ministry said it would not sell weapons to either side in the 14-month-old war. However, those claims were contradicted by leaked classified Pentagon documents in which a U.S. intel summary dated February 23 asserted that China approved a provision of lethal aid to Russia for its war in Ukraine while wanting any shipments to remain a secret.
Following Chinese Ambassador Lu’s comments Monday, the French Foreign Ministry noted that China was among the countries that recognized Ukraine’s borders, including Crimea, when it declared independence in 1991.