Russia-Ukraine Crisis Live Updates: Putin and Xi to Meet in China

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Credit…Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin

BEIJING — Russian President Vladimir V. Putin met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Friday in a highly choreographed show of unity as Putin clashed with the United States and NATO over Ukraine.

“We are working together to bring true multilateralism to life,” Xi told Putin, according to the Kremlin’s translation of their remarks. “Defending the true spirit of democracy is a reliable basis for uniting the world to overcome crises and defend equality.”

The meeting – the first Mr. Xi has held in person with a foreign counterpart in nearly two years – highlighted the deepening ties between two authoritarian leaders even as President Biden struggles to contain diplomatic crises with the of them.

Mr Putin will also attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, as the most prominent of nearly two dozen world leaders whose presence has blunted the impact of a “diplomatic boycott” by President Biden and other leaders of democratic nations.

Mr Putin has massed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, which US officials say could be the prelude to an invasion.

Although the intention behind the reinforcement remains unclear, the Kremlin has accused the United States of exaggerating the threat of an invasion and raising tensions by deploying its own troops in Eastern Europe. Earlier this week, Mr Putin said the United States was trying to pressure the Kremlin into action and complained that the West had ignored demands for Russian security guarantees.

In scenes originally shown on Russian state television, Mr Putin greeted Mr Xi on a red carpet at the government guesthouse in western Beijing, raising his hand in greeting. The Chinese leader replied, through a translator: “Hello! I am very happy to see you.

Mr Putin told him that the Sino-Russian relationship had “taken on a truly unprecedented character”. “It’s an example of a dignified relationship that helps each of us grow while supporting each other’s development,” Putin said.

Mr Putin’s delegation included Igor Sechin, the powerful head of Russian oil giant Rosneft. Mr Putin said Friday’s talks would include a discussion of increasing Russian energy exports to China. “Our oil people have prepared very good new solutions for delivering hydrocarbons to the People’s Republic of China,” Putin said.

Despite the extraordinary measures the pair have taken during the coronavirus pandemic, neither leader wore a mask when greeting each other.

In the days leading up to the meeting – the 38th between the two leaders – Beijing voiced support for Mr Putin’s grievances against the US and NATO, and he joined Russia in trying to block action against Ukraine in the United Nations Security Council.

Although not a party to the conflict, the Chinese government saw the confrontation as a test of American influence and resolve that could distract Mr Biden from his administration’s focus on China. as the preeminent strategic rival of the 21st century.

Any new Chinese pledges of economic and political support to Mr Putin could undermine Mr Biden’s strategy to ostracize the Russian leader for military buildup. They could also signal a tectonic shift in the US-China rivalry, with possible spillovers from Europe to the Pacific.

On Thursday, Mr. Putin, in an article with the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, pledged to discuss trade and commercial agreements with Mr. Xi, as well as strategies to create global financial mechanisms that ” offset the negative impact of unilateral sanctions”. ”

China and Russia have long bristled at U.S. tactics of restricting dollar-denominated transactions as a way to exert diplomatic pressure, though Chinese companies have complied with them in the past.

Trade between the two countries has soared in recent years, providing Mr Putin with more alternative outlets — notably for natural resources — in case the United States and Europe seek to impose new sanctions on Russian companies .

Claire Crazy contributed to the research.