Putin to Meet With Xi Jinping Today in Uzbekistan

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Moscow understood that China had “questions and concerns” about the war in Ukraine, according to the Interfax news agency — a notable, if cryptic, admission from Mr. Putin that Beijing may not fully approve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He made the remark as he met with Xi Jinping, the leader of China, on Thursday in Uzbekistan. China has staked out a neutral position on the invasion publicly, even as it has echoed the Kremlin’s rhetoric about Russia being treated unfairly by the West.

The summit, meant to signal the strength of the relationship between the two authoritarian leaders at a time of increasing animosity with the West and challenges to their agendas, is particularly important to Mr. Putin, who has become more isolated by the United States and its allies over his invasion of Ukraine. Russia has faced a spate of recent losses on the battlefield.

The Russian leader said that he appreciated the “balanced stance” of China on Ukraine, and would give detailed “explanations of our stance” to address Chinese concerns at their meeting, Interfax reported.

One of the core principles of Chinese foreign policy, repeated again in official statements from Mr. Xi’s meetings this week with Central Asian heads of state, is that countries should not intervene in other countries’ internal affairs and should respect each others’ borders.

Mr. Xi, who is under pressure as the country’s zero-Covid policy hurts the economy, needs to project power in the weeks before a meeting of the country’s Communist Party leadership.

The two held talks on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a multilateral, security-focused organization that includes China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four Central Asian nations. The Kremlin reported that the meeting had begun but released few details.

Chinese support is important to Russia. China bought record levels of Russian oil in May, June and July. But Beijing has been careful to avoid violating sanctions on Russia that could lead to it being punished as well.

Upon his arrival late Wednesday in Uzbekistan, Mr. Xi was greeted at the airport in Samarkand by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who, unlike Mr. Xi, was not wearing a mask. Chinese state media showed dancers and musicians in traditional costumes performing and then energetically applauding as Mr. Xi walked into the arrival hall.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi last met in February, before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. In a 5,300-word statement, they declared a friendship with “no limits” and criticized the influence of the United States in their regions.

Russia invaded Ukraine days after the end of the Beijing Olympics, and China has refused to criticize Mr. Putin’s actions or refer to the conflict as a war.

For Mr. Xi, the meeting is also a chance to resume his role as a global statesman. It is his first trip abroad since he went to Myanmar in January 2020. He traveled to Hong Kong for the 25th anniversary of return to Chinese control on July 1, his first trip outside mainland China since the start of the pandemic.

As he tries to build up a regional power base, Mr. Xi went to Kazakhstan on Wednesday for a brief stop at the start of his trip before heading to Uzbekistan in the evening. Mr. Xi used a 2013 trip to the country to announce a vast international investment and development program that became known as the Belt and Road Initiative.


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