Russian president Putin to make state visit to China this week

Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a two-day state visit to China this week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said.

Mr Putin will meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping during his visit starting on Thursday, it said.

The Kremlin confirmed the trip in a statement and said Mr Putin was going on Mr Xi’s invitation.

It said that this will be Mr Putin’s first foreign trip since he was sworn in as president and began his fifth term in office.

China has backed Russia politically in the conflict in Ukraine and has continued to export machine tools and other items seen as contributing to the Russian war effort, without actually exporting weaponry.

China is also a major export market for energy supplies that keep the Kremlin’s coffers full.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Mr Xi would discuss with Mr Putin “cooperation in various fields of bilateral relations… as well as international and regional issues of common concern.”

China has sought to project itself as a neutral party in the conflict, but has declared a “no limits” relationship with Russia in opposition to the West.

The sides have also held a series of joint military drills and China has consistently opposed economic sanctions against Russia in response to its now two-year-old campaign of conquest against Ukraine.

The two continent-sized authoritarian states are increasingly in dispute with democracies and Nato and seek to gain influence in Africa, the Middle East and South America.

Mr Putin’s visit comes just days ahead of Monday’s inauguration of William Lai Ching-te as the next president of Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory and threatens to annex by force if necessary.

Mr Xi returned last week from a five-day visit to Europe, including stops in Hungary and Serbia, countries viewed as close to Russia.

The trip, Mr Xi’s first to the continent in five years, was seen as an attempt to increase China’s influence and drive a wedge between the EU and Nato on one side, and a yet-to-be-defined bloc of authoritarian nations on the other.

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