Putin arrives in China as US slams Beijing for supporting Ukraine war

THE HILL:  Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing, the first state visit of his new term.

It comes as his forces have mounted a major new assault in Ukraine and amid U.S. criticism of China for supporting that war with nonlethal assistance.

Putin touched down early Thursday morning local time and is expected to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during his two-day visit. The heads of state are likely to discuss pressing international issues and celebrate diplomatic relations between China and Russia.

Putin’s state visit comes as Russian forces launched a major offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region, forcing the evacuation of thousands of civilians and putting more pressure on an ammunition-starved Ukrainian force.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Kyiv this week and stressed the U.S. would keep standing by Ukraine amid the attack.

In a press conference Wednesday, Blinken also called out China for supplying Russia with nonlethal aid, saying when he visited Beijing he saw that the “overwhelming majority” of machine tools and microelectronic chips for Russia come from Chinese sources.

“These are going directly to strengthening that defense industrial base that, over the last year, has been able as a result to churn out more tanks, more armored vehicles, more missiles — all used in the aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

“What we are deeply concerned about is the support that China’s providing to Russia to rebuild its defense industrial base in ways that are materially contributing to and making a difference in its aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken added.

Blinken also said the U.S. is prepared to unveil more sanctions against any entities found to be responsible for supporting the Russian war effort. He argued that China cannot seek closer relations with Europe “while on the other hand remain responsible for fueling the biggest threat to Europe’s security since the end of the Cold War.”

“Because the threat posed by Russia is both the immediate threat here in Ukraine as a result of the aggression, but also as it works to try to get around sanctions, export controls … in rebuilding its defense industrial base, an ongoing and potentially growing threat to many other countries in Europe,” he said.

“So this is of acute importance to many Europeans that I’ve talked to, and I imagine that they’re making that known to Beijing as well.”

Putin won his fifth term in March in an election Western leaders have widely called a sham.

Ahead of his visit, Putin gave an interview to Chinese state-run media outlet Xinhua, where he expressed support for China’s 12-point peace plan to end the war in Ukraine.

“Beijing proposes practicable and constructive steps to achieve peace by refraining from pursuing vested interests and constant escalation of tensions, minimizing the negative impact of the conflict on the global economy and the stability of global value chains,” Putin said in the interview.

But he also criticized the U.S. and Western allies for not pursuing peace, accusing “Western elites” of trying to punish Russia and of avoiding discussions on the root causes of the war in Ukraine, including what he called the West imposing arbitrary rules on the rest of the world.

“Unfortunately, neither Ukraine nor its Western patrons support these initiatives. They are not ready to engage in an equal, honest and open dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests,” he said. “They are reluctant to discuss the underlying causes, the very origins of the global crisis, which has manifested itself, inter alia, in the dramatic situation around Ukraine.”

Putin has repeatedly said he was open to negotiations, but the U.S. has concerns he would not negotiate in good faith and seeks to hold onto the territory that Russian forces grabbed in Ukraine after the 2022 invasion.

China’s peace plan called for respecting the sovereignty of all nations, ceasing hostilities and engaging in peace talks while also halting sanctions and re-opening economic channels. The plan was criticized in the West as too supportive of Russia, though Ukraine expressed openness to the proposal if Moscow pulled back troops from Ukrainian territory.

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