Moscow (Russian Federation), 20/03/2023.- A Russian matryoshka doll with a portrait of the Chinese President Xi Jinping displayed in front of a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin in a street souvenir shop in downtown Moscow, Russia, 20 March 2023. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow for a three-day visit, which will last from 20 to 22 March, according to Russian and Chinese state agencies. An informal meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping is expected to take place on 20 March. Following its results, it is planned to sign two documents - on improving joint partnership in a new era and on developing key areas of Russian-Chinese economic cooperation until 2030. (Rusia, Moscú) EFE/EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV

Xi arrives in Russia to meet Putin on his first visit since Ukraine war

Moscow, Mar 20 (EFE).- Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow on Monday for a three-day visit, his first to Russia since the Ukrainian war began more than a year ago, prompting the West to isolate Moscow.

In Moscow, Xi will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday as the two countries look to strengthen the bilateral ties with the Russian war in Ukraine grinding on.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernishenko received Xi on a red carpet at the Vnukovo International Airport.

“During his visit, Xi will have in-depth exchanges of views with Putin over bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern,” China’s official Xinhua news agency said.

The Chinese president said he was “very happy” to receive Putin’s invitation. “China and Russia are good neighbors and reliable partners connected by mountains and rivers.”

A grand welcoming ceremony was held upon Xi’s arrival.

It is Xi’s ninth trip to Russia and the first since he won an unprecedented third term this month as the Chinese president.

Russian matryoshka dolls with portraits of the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin sold on a street souvenir shop in downtown Moscow, Russia, 20 March 2023. EFE/EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV

He will dine at the Kremlin with Putin on Monday.

The two sides will launch formal negotiations on Tuesday, during which they will sign bilateral agreements.

The West fears that these negotiations will serve Russia not only to strengthen its ties with China as an alternative market but also to circumvent sanctions.

The visit comes amid reports of a Chinese drone spotted on the battlefield in Ukraine and a possible supply of Chinese weapons to Russia, the American newspaper Politico said.

The Chinese president has emerged as Russia’s most powerful ally at a time when Putin is isolated globally after the military campaign in Ukraine.

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin.

China’s foreign ministry Monday reacted sharply to the ICC warrant and called on the global court to “respect the jurisdictional immunity” of a head of state.

The ICC should “avoid politicization and double standards,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

With Xi’s visit, the Kremlin will send a message to the West that the two countries, through their friendship, make a common front against what the Chinese president called the “damaging acts of hegemony, domination, and bullying, and long and tortuous global economic recovery.”

The Chinese president’s visit also indicates that Xi will not let Putin down, who needs China in the face of Western sanctions.

China-Russia trade exceeded $190 billion last year, up by 116 percent from a decade ago.

China has maintained an ambiguous stand on the war in Ukraine.

It has defended Ukrainian territorial integrity and also advocated taking Russia’s security concerns into account.

China’s peace initiative has been welcomed in Russia with nuances because respecting territorial integrity would mean returning the occupied territories to Ukraine.

Ukraine considers that the Chinese plan lacks logic and is full of contradictions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders would discuss the situation in Ukraine.

“One way or another, the topics that figured in this plan will inevitably be touched upon during the exchange of views on Ukraine. Ukraine will undoubtedly be on the agenda,” Peskov told reporters.

“Exhaustive clarifications will be given by President Putin, so that President Xi can get a first-hand view of the current moment from the Russian side.”

Ahead of his visit, Xi wrote an article titled “Forging Ahead to Open a New Chapter of China-Russia Friendship, Cooperation and Common Development.”

The article was published Monday by Russian Gazette and RIA Novosti news.

“China has all along upheld an objective and impartial position based on the merits of the issue, and actively promoted peace talks,” Xi wrote in the article.

Putin wrote in the official Chinese daily that Russia was open to a politico-diplomatic settlement of the crisis in Ukraine.

“The future of the peace process depends only on the will of all parties to have a serious conversation, taking into account the geopolitical realities of the moment,” the Russian leader said.

“Unfortunately, the demands for an ultimatum to Russia only confirm the isolation from reality and the disinterest of other parties in finding a way out of the current situation.” EFE