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Putin visits 'dear friend' Xi in show of no-limits partnership

BEIJING: Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday (Oct 17) to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a widely watched trip aimed at showcasing the trust and “no-limits” partnership between the countries even as the war in Ukraine raged on.

In only his second known trip abroad since the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him in March, Putin and his entourage flew into the Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday morning where he was greeted by the Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.

It is also the Kremlin chief’s first official trip outside of the former Soviet Union this year, after visiting Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, earlier this month.

The ICC, which accused Putin of illegally deporting children from Ukraine, obliges the court’s 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory. Neither Kyrgyzstan nor China are members of the ICC, established to prosecute war crimes.

Xi last saw his “dear friend” in Moscow just days after the warrant was issued. At the time, Xi invited Putin to attend the third Belt and Road forum in Beijing, an international cooperation forum championed by the Chinese leader.

As Putin arrived at the Great Hall of the People for an evening banquet organised for global leaders and dignitaries attending the forum, Xi was all smiles as the two men shook hands.

Putin, as the forum’s chief guest, stood to the right of Xi as world leaders posed for group photographs at the Great Hall.

On Wednesday at the forum, Putin will also speak after Xi gives his opening speech. The two will hold bilateral talks later that day.

Beijing has rejected Western criticism of its partnership with Moscow even as the war in Ukraine showed no sign of ceasing, insisting that their ties do not violate international norms, and China has the right to collaborate with whichever country it chooses.

Related:

Russia's top diplomat Lavrov in China ahead of Putin visit

Commentary: Xi and Putin's no-limits partnership is becoming a one-sided affair

Putin sees Belt and Road Initiative as China's desire to cooperate

Putin last visited China for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022 when Russia and China declared a “no-limits” partnership days before the Russian president sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

It would be Putin’s third attendance of the Belt and Road Forum, which runs through Wednesday. He attended the two previous forums in 2017 and 2019.

BELT AND ROAD

The forum centres on the Belt and Road initiative, a grand plan launched by Xi a decade ago that he hopes would build global infrastructure and energy networks connecting Asia with Africa and Europe through overland and maritime routes.

Putin has praised the initiative, saying it is a platform for international cooperation, where “no one imposes anything on others”.

Since the start of the Ukrainian conflict, Russia has cemented its energy ties with China in a sign of their economic cooperation.

Russia exports around 2 million barrels of oil per day to China, more than a third of its total crude oil exports. Moscow also aims to build a second natural gas pipeline to China.

While the heads of Russia’s oil and gas giants Rosneft and Gazprom will be part of Putin’s travelling delegation, no new deals in energy can be expected.

The trip is not a “full-fledged bilateral” visit, but one made on the sidelines of an international conference, according to the Kremlin.

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