Vladimir Putin arrives in China for state visit as Russian troops advance into Ukraine

Hong Kong (CNN) — Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing to begin a two-day state visit, underscoring his close ties with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as his country escalates a crackdown on Ukraine.

It is Putin’s first symbolic trip abroad since assuming a new term as Russia’s president last week, the latest sign of strengthening ties as the two men bring their countries closer despite strong friction with the West .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced through his office on Wednesday that he would suspend all upcoming international travel, hours after Putin landed in the Chinese capital, while his forces advance against Russian advances in the country’s northeastern region of Kharkiv. She was defending herself.

The war, as well as the conflict in Gaza, are expected to feature in Xi and Putin’s meetings alongside talks about their growing trade, energy and security ties.

Ahead of the visit, Putin praised the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” between the two countries in an interview with Chinese state media Xinhua.

He said the leaders aimed to “strengthen foreign policy coordination” and deepen cooperation in “industry and high technology, outer space and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and other innovative areas.”

He also praised “China’s approach to resolving the crisis in Ukraine.” Beijing has never condemned the Russian invasion, instead declaring itself neutral in the conflict and calling for peace talks that take into account the positions of both sides.

The two leaders, who declared a “boundless” partnership just weeks before the February 2022 invasion, have continued to strengthen their countries’ diplomatic, trade and security ties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both see each other as important partners in their convergent vision of reshaping the world order led by the United States.

Trade between the two economies has soared since the war, reaching record levels last year, as other countries aimed to drain Russia’s war coffers and limit its access to goods used on the battlefield. Impose restrictions.

Xi hosted Putin in Beijing at a time when the Chinese leader is under increasing pressure from the United States and Europe to ensure that Chinese exports are not contributing to Russia’s war effort.

In recent weeks, White House officials have touted China’s substantial support from Beijing in the form of goods such as machine tools, drones and turbojet engines and microelectronics for the Russian defense industrial base.

This is the fourth in-person meeting between Xi and Putin – known for their personal chemistry – since the invasion and Putin’s second visit to Beijing. Xi also visited Moscow in 2023, after starting his new term as China’s president.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that the two leaders were expected to sign a series of bilateral agreements. They are also expected to celebrate 75 years of their diplomatic ties in what Chinese state media described as a “celebratory event”.

Besides meeting Xi in Beijing, Putin is also scheduled to visit Harbin, the capital of the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang bordering the Russian Far East, where he will participate in trade and cooperation forums.

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