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Putin arrives in China on rare trip abroad to meet ‘dear friend’ Xi Jinping

Putin is the chief guest of the Belt and Road Iniative forum in China

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 17 October 2023 10:20 BST
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Putin arrives in China on second foreign trip since March 2023

Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a rare trip abroad to join ally China in marking the 10th anniversary of an international cooperation forum.

The two-day visit is only his second known trip abroad since the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader in March over Ukraine war crime allegations.

The Russian president and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are holding talks to bolster their shared trade and security amid Western sanctions against Moscow over Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Several other world leaders also arrived in Beijing for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum championed by Mr Xi, including Vietnam’s president Vo Van Thuong, but Mr Putin is being heralded as the talks’ chief guest.

The Russian presidential entourage was greeted by Chinese commerce minister Wang Wentao after Mr Putin’s plane touched down at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday.

Beijing has supported Russia in rejecting resolutions on Ukraine in the United Nations Security Council, part of Western efforts to isolate Russia over the war. China has rejected Western criticism of its close partnership with Russia in spite of the war in Ukraine, which entered its 600th day on Monday.

Mr Putin is expected to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia and Laos on Tuesday and attend the forum’s official opening reception hosted by Mr Xi, Tass news agency reported.

Chinese honor guards are seen after welcoming Russia's President Vladimir Putin at Beijing Capital International Airport (Getty Images)

On Wednesday, he will address the forum after Mr Xi as the chief guest and will meet the Chinese president for talks after.

Before embarking on the trip, Mr Putin said in an interview with CCTV that he had met with Xi more than 40 times so far and the two have “many fond memories”. He praised China’s ambitious BRI project and said contrary to the West’s perception, Beijing was seeking cooperation and not to “put someone under its thumb”.

China launched its signature BRI project in 2013 and funded $900bn in infrastructure and other projects to connect Asia with Africa and Europe through overland and maritime routes.

The project has since faced many challenges, including concerns about debt sustainability and the impact of China’s economic slowdown.

Vladimir Putin has come to Beijing for a two-day visit (EPA)

Mr Putin said his meeting with Mr Xi would encompass talks on Belt and Road-related projects, which he said Moscow wanted to link with efforts by an economic alliance of ex-Soviet Union nations mostly located in Central Asia to “achieve common development goal”.

This is his second visit outside Russia after his visit to Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, earlier this month. The ICC accused Mr Putin of committing a war crime by “illegally deporting children from Ukraine”. The ICC obliges the court’s 123 member states to arrest Mr Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.

The Kremlin leader last visited China for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022 when Mr Xi declared a “no-limits" partnership with Russia.

Mr Xi met Mr Putin in March during a three-day trip to Moscow amid the Pentagon’s fears of Beijing’s potential military cooperation between the two countries for supplying weapons to be used in Ukraine. They greeted one another as “dear friend” when they met in the Kremlin, and held informal talks for over four hours.

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