European delegates walk out of China-led international summit as Vladimir Putin starts speaking

Russian leader and China’s President Xi Jinping spoke out against the West in their speeches

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 18 October 2023 14:43 BST
Putin arrives in China on second foreign trip since March 2023

European delegates staged a walkout at an international cooperation forum hosted by China – as Vladimir Putin was set to begin speaking.

The Russian president arrived in China as a guest at Beijing’s third installment of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – Beijing’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure project aimed at increasing the country’s global standing by connecting China to other parts of the world through road, train, and port project investments.

Chinese president Xi Jinping opened the ceremony in the presence of several world leaders and more than 1,000 delegates at the Great Hall of the People, west of Tiananmen Square, and shared the stage with Mr Putin who made the rare trip outside Russia despite his nation’s .

But he was boycotted by some European delegates, including former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, underscoring the growing geopolitical divide in Europe and the West.

Videos from the event showed Mr Raffarin and other delegates walking out from the halls as Mr Putin was set to deliver his remarks after Mr Xi.

Other footage from the visit showed Mr Putin accompanied by his aides carrying the so-called nuclear briefcase which can be used to order a nuclear strike.

Surrounded by security, Mr Putin was followed by two Russian naval officers in uniform each carrying a briefcase – known as Cheget – that can transmit nuclear strike launch orders to the central military command.

Mr Putin and Mr Xi spoke out against the West in their speeches as the two leaders underscored their close relationship amid Russia’s international isolation over the Ukraine war.

“Ideological confrontation, geopolitical rivalry and bloc politics are not the choice for us, but we stand against economic sanctions, economic coercions, and decoupling and supply chain disruptions,” Mr Xi said

Mr Xi pushed against Western efforts to reduce dependence on the Chinese economy, saying that, "our lives will not be better and our development will not be faster if we view the development of others as a threat and economic interdependence as a risk”.

Mr Putin, who attended the ceremony along with foreign leaders and key Chinese officials from the 25-member Politburo, praised Mr Xi for the success of BRI projects.

"When we start something big, we expect that it will be successful. But understanding the global scale, it is hard to expect everything will be well," he said.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands during a welcoming ceremony at the Third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing

"But our Chinese friends did it," he said.

The Kremlin leader called Mr Xi his “dear friend” as he spoke on his only second known trip outside the former Soviet Union since the Ukraine war.

He insisted that Moscow can play a key role in China‘s modern-day revival of the ancient Silk Road and invited states to participate in the Northern Sea Route, which is ambitious Russian Arctic maritime transport artery running from of Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to Norway and to the Bering Strait near Alaska.

Russian president Putin delivers speech

"Starting next year, navigation for ice-class cargo ships along the entire length of the Northern Sea Route will become year-round,” he said.

The two leaders held bilateral talks and touted “close political coordination” to safeguard international “justice”.

"In the current difficult conditions, close foreign policy coordination is especially necessary - which is what we are doing, and today we will also discuss all of this," Mr Putin told Mr Xi.

Mr Putin held several bilateral talks on the sidelines of the summit, including with Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Pakistani leaders. He took part in an official family photo ceremony with heads of delegations at the summit.

Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orban held talks with Mr Putin and was pictured shaking hands with him – becoming the first western leader to share stage with him since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against the Russian president for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Mr Orban said the meeting was a bid to “save everything that is possible from our bilateral contacts” and that that Hungary “never wanted to confront Russia”.

“We are interested in supporting this co-operation not only at the level of communication but also at the economic level,” Mr Orban said.

Hungary, which is dependent on Moscow for it’s 80 per cent of gas trade, has faced criticism from the bloc members for aligning with Mr Putin’s interests, especially through his delays in imposing sanctions, refusal to provide military aid to Kyiv, and objections to its EU accession amid the war.

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