Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in their first face-to-face talks since the conflict in Ukraine began on Thursday, praising their strategic ties in defiance of the West.
The two leaders met at two long round tables next to them together on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in former Soviet Uzbekistan.
The meeting was part of Xi’s first trip abroad since the early days of the epidemic, and for Putin, it was an opportunity to show that Russia has not been completely isolated despite Western efforts.
“China is ready to make efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers and play a guiding role to inject stability and positive energy into a world shaken by social turmoil,” Xi told Putin at the talks.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV quoted Mr. Xi as saying that China is ready to work with Russia to support each other’s “core interests”.
Putin has come under clear criticism of the United States, which is leading efforts to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia.
“Attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken on a completely ugly shape and are completely unacceptable,” Putin said.
“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends regarding the Ukraine crisis,” Putin told Mr. Xi, emphasizing Moscow’s support for China in Taiwan.
Putin said after a US Senate committee on Wednesday took the first step toward Washington providing billions of dollars directly in military aid to Taiwan.
An ‘alternative’ to the West
It was the first in-person meeting between the two leaders since Putin saw Xi in early February at the Winter Olympics, days before the Russian leader launched his military offensive in Ukraine.
“We understand your questions and concerns about this. During today’s meeting, we will of course explain our position.”
President Xi did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor was it mentioned in a Chinese reading of their meeting, which was held in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of a regional summit.
Beijing’s support is widely seen as essential to Moscow, which needs markets for its energy exports and sources to import high-tech goods while facing sanctions imposed by the West.
The last time the two men met, they signed a “borderless” friendship agreement between the two countries. Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Russian president’s comments indicated a Chinese shift toward a more critical stance, at least in private.
It was “the first public sign of Putin’s acknowledgment of pressure to back down,” said Ian Bremer, a professor of political science at Columbia University.
“Russia has become pariah from the G7 because of its invasion. China doesn’t want any part of that,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the Group of Seven industrialized nations.
White House spokesman John Kirby said China should reject the Russian invasion: “The whole world should line up against what Putin is doing,” Kirby told CNN.
This is not the time for any kind of business as usual with Mr. Putin.”
Later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that the behind-closed-doors talks with China were excellent.
‘by your side’
In Kyiv, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, held talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky, telling him that Ukraine’s accession process to the European Union was on the right track.
“It’s impressive to see the speed, the determination, and the accuracy with which you go,” she said.
Ukraine became a candidate to join the European Union in June, in a bold geopolitical move described by both Kyiv and Brussels as a “historic moment”.
Ms von der Leyen said the EU would not be able to match the sacrifices Ukrainians were making or make up for their struggle for democracy and humanity, but vowed to “have your European friends by your side as long as it takes”.
She said EU sanctions on Russia have a profound and clear impact, and although providing support is costly, “freedom is priceless.”
After a week of the fastest Ukrainian gains since the early weeks of the war, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces are now strengthening their defenses and it will be difficult for Kyiv’s forces to maintain the pace of their advance.
President Putin has yet to publicly comment on the setback his forces suffered after Ukrainian forces made a rapid armored advance across the front line last week. Russian forces hastily abandoned dozens of tanks and other armored vehicles.
An abandoned Russian military tank is checked after the withdrawal of Russian forces from Balaklia as the Russo-Ukrainian War continues on September 15, 2022 in Balaklia, Kharkiv Oblast, Russia. source: GT / (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Kyiv says it has recovered more than 8,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of the island of Cyprus.
The speed of progress raised Ukraine’s morale, satisfied Western backers who provided weapons, intelligence, and training, and raised hopes of further significant gains before winter hits.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region, said wresting control of his region from Russia, which it recognizes as an independent country controlled by separatists, will remain a fierce battle.
There was no stopping Russia’s daily missile strikes on Ukraine, a day after it launched cruise missiles at a reservoir dam near Kryvyi Ri, President Zelensky’s hometown.
Ukrainian soldiers patrol the streets of Izyum after the withdrawal of Russian forces as the Russo-Ukrainian War continues in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine on September 14, 2022. source: GT / (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Authorities in the city of Kharkiv said that Russian shells hit a high-pressure gas pipeline, while a rescue operation was underway in the city of Bakhmut with four people suspected of being trapped under the rubble after the strike, Pavlo Kirilenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, said.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Thursday that Russian forces launched attacks on several settlements on the front line in Kharkiv in the past 24 hours.
But the British Ministry of Defense said in an update that Ukrainian forces continue to consolidate their control over the newly liberated territories in the region.
The United States on Thursday imposed new sanctions on 22 individuals and two entities that facilitated Russia’s war in Ukraine, the US Treasury said.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned Washington to move with caution, saying that any decision to supply Kyiv with long-range missiles for US-made HIMARS systems would cross a “red line” and make the United States a “direct party to the conflict.”
The Board of Governors of the United Nations nuclear agency on Thursday asked Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. source: GT / (Stringer/AFP Photo via Getty Images)
“Withdrawal from Zaporizhzhya”
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors on Thursday passed a resolution demanding Russia end its occupation of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, diplomats said at the closed-door meeting.
The withdrawal of Russian forces from the power plant it has occupied since March has been a long-standing demand of Kyiv, which fears a nuclear catastrophe if bombing continues around the plant.
The text, submitted by Canada and Poland, was approved by 26 of the 35 countries that are members of the IAEA Council.
China and Russia voted against it, while seven countries abstained – Burundi, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam.
Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushenko welcomed the decision in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Addressing the countries that abstained, he called on them to reconsider and “stop Russia now” before someone else follows suit.
Richard Sadler, Australia’s ambassador to Vienna, wrote on Twitter: “The (International Atomic Energy Agency) Board of Governors has sent another strong message to Russia: immediately cease all actions that threaten nuclear safety and security, and return the Zaporozhye nuclear plant and all other Ukrainian territories to control. ”
Another diplomat confirmed the move. The resolution supports the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is in talks with Russia and Ukraine on establishing a security zone around the nuclear plant.
Already in March, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a resolution warning of the “unprecedented danger of a nuclear accident” that would endanger not only the population of Ukraine, but Europe as a whole.
Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been a focal point of the fighting in recent weeks, reviving fears of a nuclear accident. A team of IAEA experts inspected the station in early September.