Xi Jinping supports Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, but remains firm on the Russian gas pipeline

Xi Jinping backed Vladimir Putin’s stance in Ukraine’s war, but he withheld confirmation of plans for a critical pipeline that would reroute Russia’s gas exports to Asia from Europe.

After holding centerpiece talks in Moscow, the Chinese and Russian leaders signed an agreement on Tuesday. They praised Beijing’s “positive” role and their “objective and unbiased position” regarding Putin’s invasion. However, their talks didn’t yield any decisive agreements on important economic issues that would help Moscow weather sanctions.

Putin’s talk about the talks was lacking in substance, which he described to be “warm, friendly, and constructive”. This underscored Russia’s declining influence as it rely more on China for its political and economic support.

Moscow has received a vital economic lifeline from Beijing by increasing its purchases of energy exports and substituting western goods and components that were restricted by the sanctions. However, the Tuesday talks showed that further strengthening of economic ties is still possible. Xi will remain in Moscow for a third consecutive day on Wednesday.

Putin’s main goal was to convince the Chinese leader to sign on to his proposed Power of Siberia-2 pipeline to supply China via Mongolia. Putin said that it was a “practically all of the parameters” of the agreement earlier Tuesday.

In joint remarks with Xi, Russia’s president stated that China would receive at least 98bn cubes of natural gas from Russia by 2023. This figure is only possible if a new pipeline is built. He also noted that Mongolia had already agreed to the deal.But Xi remained conspicuously silent on the topic. A lengthy joint statement said only that Russia and China would “make efforts to advance work on studying and agreeing” plans to build the pipeline.

Russia’s top energy official Alexander Novak said that the Kremlin wanted to sign the Power of Siberia-2 deal later in the year. “The companies were given instructions to complete the details of this project and sign it as soon as possible. According to state newswire Ria Novosti, he said that he had given orders to ensure that the conditions were agreed upon. “We hope it will be this year.”

However, China’s leader was more open to Ukraine. The remarks mostly reiterated the Kremlin talking points and warned against “any country or group of nations seeking advantages in the military and political areas to the detriment to the legitimate security interests other countries.” This is a common Russian complaint about Nato. They also accused western countries of increasing the conflict.

Putin has often pondered the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the west to stop Russia’s faltering invasion. He warned that UK supplies to Kyiv with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium could increase the conflict.

Putin stated that Russia would have to respond, given the fact that the west has started using nuclear weapons. He did not specify what Russia’s response would look like.

In a show of support for Putin who was last week the subject of an international arrest warrant in connection with alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine, Xi stated that he had invited him to visit China “at a convenient moment” this year. Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy advisor, said that Russia’s leader could travel this year.

Ushakov stated that Putin and Xi’s meeting was enough for Russia’s enemies to be scared. Interfax reports that he stated, “They are very nervous,” and with good reasons. “Two powerful powers and their neighbours are working together to solve the most pressing issues in world politics and bilateral relations. . .] It’s completely natural.

According to the US, China’s peace plan would allow Russia to seize territory in Ukraine and give Moscow enough time for its military forces to prepare for another offensive.

“The world shouldn’t be fooled if Russia makes a tactical move — supported by China and any other country — in order to freeze war on its terms,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated Monday.

The plan is still being questioned by Ukraine, although it has not criticised China in advance of a call between Xi President Volodymyr Zeleskyy after his three-day Moscow visit.

Zelenskyy stated on Tuesday that there was no confirmation of any call with Xi.

Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime Minister, made an unexpected visit to Kyiv, Bucha and Bucha. He expressed his “great anger” at Russian atrocities.