Ahead of China visit, Putin says he is ready to negotiate on Ukraine war

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the members of the Russian Business Congress Delovaya Rossiya at the Kremlin, in Moscow. [AFP]

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Chinese media Wednesday that Russia is ready to negotiate on the war in Ukraine.

Russia has "never refused to negotiate," China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Putin as saying. Russia seeks a "comprehensive, sustainable and just settlement of this conflict through peaceful means."

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin arrived in Beijing on Thursday for two days at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Xi and Putin will "have a detailed discussion on the entire range of issues related to the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation and determine the new directions for further development of cooperation between Russia and China,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

They will “also have a detailed exchange of opinions on the most acute international and regional issues," the Kremlin added.

Russia has intensified its attacks on the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine in the past week, forcing nearly 8,000 people to leave their homes.

China says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict. But it has economically, politically and rhetorically backed Russia and refuses to condemn Moscow’s offensive.

“I don't think Xi is going to be 100% supportive of Russia's continuing hostilities,” Lyle Morris, a senior fellow at Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis, told VOA. “I think Putin knows that. So, his hand is getting weaker.”

Putin said that China understands the origins of the crisis in Ukraine and has a sincere desire to stabilize the situation, according to Xinhua.

Just weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine in 2022, Xi and Putin signed a pledge declaring their “no-limits” bilateral partnership. Beijing has since become Moscow’s most reliable economic and diplomatic partner as Western nations have imposed strict economic sanctions in response to the invasion.

Putin “will be trying to make sure that China supports Russia in any sort of international negotiations or basically finds a way to get around U.S. sanctions,” William Pomeranz, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, said in an interview with VOA.

“China is becoming steadily more important” in Russia and China's relationship, Edward Lucas, senior adviser at the Center for European Policy Analysis, told VOA.

Putin’s “No. 1 issue is help on Ukraine,” he said. “He wants diplomatic help. He wants help with breaking sanctions. He would like more weapons.”

Lucas said Xi's interest is slightly different. Xi “doesn't want Russia to lose, but he also doesn't want Russia to escalate going up the nuclear ladder,” he said.

Putin’s trip to China will be his first foreign visit since he was reelected in March for a fifth term in office. The trip is his second visit to China in six months.

He traveled to Beijing in October to attend a forum on China's Belt and Road Initiative, a project launched by Xi a decade ago to build global infrastructure and energy networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa.