Putin is in China to get support in his war in Ukraine

Putin is in China to get support in his war in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin arrived in China on Thursday to meet with his counterpart and “dear friend” Xi Jinping, hoping to persuade him to provide greater support for Russia's war effort in Ukraine.

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According to pictures broadcast on Russian television, the Kremlin President was received on Thursday at around 4:30 am in Beijing (8:30 pm GMT Wednesday), upon getting off his plane, by Chinese officials and a guard of honor, before heading to Beijing. A seat in a black limousine.

The two-day visit marks Putin's first foreign trip since his re-election in March and his second to China in just over six months.

This Asian giant represents a crucial economic lifeline for Russia, which is suffering from severe Western sanctions imposed on it to punish it for its military attack in Ukraine.

A few hours before his departure, Vladimir Putin welcomed the progress made by the Russian army in Ukraine, which he claimed had taken control of several positions in the Kharkiv region (north-east of the country): “Our forces are constantly, every day, improving their positions in all directions.” He confirmed.

Having just returned from a tour of France, Serbia and Hungary, Xi Jinping defended the right to maintain normal economic relations with his Russian neighbour. China in particular benefits from cheap Russian energy imports.

The two countries had celebrated in early 2022, before the outbreak of the invasion of Ukraine, a bilateral partnership that was described as “unlimited.”

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“This is Putin's first visit after his inauguration, and therefore aims to show that Sino-Russian relations are moving to another level,” independent Russian analyst Konstantin Kalachev told AFP.

“Without forgetting the clear, sincere personal friendship between the two leaders.”

But these close ties are viewed with increasing suspicion among Westerners. Thus, the United States threatens to impose sanctions on foreign companies, especially banks, that do business with Russia.

The Kremlin said this week that the two presidents will discuss “key areas of development of Russian-Chinese cooperation, while also exchanging views on international and regional issues.”

Red line

In an interview with Xinhua News Agency published on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin welcomed Beijing's “sincere desire” to work to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

China regularly calls for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries (including Ukraine), but also urges that Russian security concerns be taken into account.

Washington has set a red line for Beijing – not to supply Russia with weapons directly – and says it so far has no evidence to the contrary.

But the United States believes that Chinese economic support still allows Russia to boost its production of missiles, drones and tanks.

Sino-Russian trade has been booming since the invasion of Ukraine and will reach $240 billion (222 billion euros) in 2023, according to Chinese customs.

But Chinese exports to neighboring Russia were significantly lower in March and April 2024 than in the January-February period, after Washington threatened to impose sanctions on financial institutions that support the Russian war effort.

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Because the decree signed by US President Joe Biden last December now allows for the imposition of secondary sanctions on foreign banks linked to the Russian war machine.

In short: the US Treasury can exclude them from the global financial system, based on the dollar.

“Great difficulty”

China is seeking to renew its relations with the United States in any case, and therefore may be reluctant to want to strengthen its cooperation with Russia, despite the latter's expectations, according to analysts.

Many Chinese banks have therefore boycotted or reduced transactions with their Russian clients, according to eight citizens of the two countries involved in bilateral trade.

Alexander Gabuyev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, told AFP that banks “start from the principle that it is better to be wise than to do something that you may regret later.”

“Determining whether the payments are linked to the Russian military-industrial complex (…) presents great difficulty for Chinese companies, including banks.”

But during Vladimir Putin's visit, experts expect Moscow and Beijing to celebrate their partnership and sign several trade agreements.

The two leaders are also expected to issue a joint statement and attend an evening marking 75 years of diplomatic relations between their countries, according to the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Li Qiang and then head to Harbin (northeast of the country) on Friday to visit an exhibition dedicated to trade and investments.

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About the Author: Hermínio Guimarães

"Introvertido premiado. Viciado em mídia social sutilmente charmoso. Praticante de zumbis. Aficionado por música irritantemente humilde."

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