Vladimir Putin and Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, vowed to strengthen ties between their two countries despite “pressure from the international community” ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wang’s visit to Moscow, the first by a senior Chinese official since Putin ordered the invasion last year, highlights the deepening relationship between the Russian president and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as the war drags into its second year.
“We are prepared to maintain our strategic focus and determination alongside Russia,” Wang said as he met Putin on Wednesday. He added that the two sides would deepen “political mutual trust and strategic co-operation”.
Beijing has provided an economic lifeline to Moscow as western sanctions bite, stepping up its purchase of Russian energy exports. It has also increased its supply of technical components that Russia can no longer import from western countries because of sanctions.
“China-Russia relations have withstood pressure from the international community and are developing in a very stable manner against the backdrop of a very complex, changing international situation,” Wang told Putin.
His trip is part of a diplomatic tour of Europe after the end of three years of Chinese isolation under Xi’s “zero Covid” policy.
After meeting Wang at the weekend, US secretary of state Antony Blinken warned that China was considering supplying Russia with weapons to replenish its arsenal, depleted by a year of attritional warfare and hamstrung by sanctions against its defence industry supply chains.
Beijing denied the accusations and accused the west of fuelling the conflict by supplying Ukraine with advanced weaponry.
Ahead of his meeting with Putin, Wang also met Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Moscow.
Patrushev told Wang on Tuesday that Russia would support China on Taiwan — the island over which Beijing claims sovereignty — as well as the Chinese-controlled regions of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, which he said were being “used by the west to discredit China”.
In meetings with senior western officials at the Munich security conference at the weekend, Wang outlined a peace plan that China would announce on Friday, the first anniversary of the invasion.
Although China has not released any details of the plan, western diplomats are deeply sceptical of China’s efforts after it failed to condemn Putin’s invasion, hailed a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, and helped prop up the Russian economy.
Xi met Putin last year but has not spoken to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the invasion.