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Xi, Putin hold talks in Beijing to discuss future strategic ties amid prolonged Ukraine war

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Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday held talks on the future trajectory of their strategic ties amid mounting pressure by the US and EU on Beijing to scale down its support to Moscow's continuing war in Ukraine.

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Putin arrived here on his first foreign visit, days after being re-elected for the fifth term in power in the midst of Russia’s raging war with Ukraine.

Soon after Putin arrived at the historic Great Hall of People, the seat of power of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, Xi held a welcome ceremony which included a guard of honour by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) contingent. After 15 minutes’ ceremony the two leaders, who over the years have become close friends and allies, went in for talks.

Highlighting the significance of Putin’s visit, Yury Ushakov, the Russian presidential foreign policy aide, said that China was not randomly chosen for Putin's first foreign trip, but as a response to a similar gesture of friendship made by Xi last year after his election for an unprecedented third term.

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Ushakov said that the most important part of the Beijing talks will be informal in a closed-door setting. In the ‘1+4 format’ on each side, the two leaders will hold substantial talks on Ukraine, he said.

The Russian president has brought a large delegation consisting of five deputy prime ministers, heads of economic, diplomatic and security agencies, as well as heads of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Russian Railways, Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation and the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, Russian news agency Tass reported.

In addition, senior officials from 20 Russian regions are also accompanying Putin.

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The bilateral talks are expected to focus on trade and economic cooperation, besides the strategic environment arising from Putin's war over Ukraine, which also brought pressure on China from the US and EU to distance itself from Moscow.

China has become the largest beneficiary of Russia’s oil and gas during the Ukraine war.

Putin's visit to China, the second since last October, follows Xi's just concluded European Union tour to France, Serbia and Hungary.

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In his talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, Xi pledged that China would not sell arms to Russia and would control the flow of dual-use goods to its military.

The US too is mounting pressure on China not to sell arms to Russia to further its war in Ukraine.

While Xi, 70, regards his ties with Putin, 71, as counter to the US' increasing hostility towards China, which Beijing says is aimed at countering its rise, there is unease here over Putin's continuation of the Ukraine war.

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Though Beijing has not publically supported Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the “no limits” China-Russia strategic partnership has come under intense scrutiny from the US and its allies, who have imposed sanctions on Moscow and repeatedly called Beijing to use its leverage to bring the war to an end.

The second stage of Putin's two-day state visit to China will take place in the city of Harbin, the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang Province.

There, Putin will attend the opening ceremony of the 8th Russian-Chinese Expo and the 4th Russia-China Forum on Interregional Cooperation, and will also meet with the students and teaching staff of the Harbin Institute of Technology.

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