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Putin arrives in Beijing for visit as China and Russia put on show of unity

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in China for a two-day visit (Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in China for a two-day visit (Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin landed in Beijing on Thursday for a two-day state visit to China in a show of unity between the authoritarian allies.

Mr Putin’s visit comes as Russia has become more economically dependent on China following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

On the eve of the visit, Mr Putin said in an interview with Chinese media that the Kremlin is prepared to negotiate over the conflict in Ukraine.

“We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine, but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours,” Mr Putin was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

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A security guard keeps watch on a pedestrian bridge near the Russian embassy in Beijing (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The Russian leader’s two-day trip comes as his country’s forces have pressed an offensive in north-eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region that began last week in the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began, forcing almost 8,000 people to flee their homes.

Along with Moscow’s efforts to build on its gains in the nearby Donetsk region, the two-year-old war has entered a critical stage for Ukraine’s depleted military that is awaiting new supplies of anti-aircraft missiles and artillery shells from the United States.

“We have never refused to negotiate,” Mr Putin was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

“We are seeking a comprehensive, sustainable and just settlement of this conflict through peaceful means. We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine, but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours.”

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP, File)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said any negotiations must include a restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression, and security guarantees for Ukraine.

China claims to take a neutral position in the conflict, but has backed Moscow’s contentions that Russia was provoked into attacking Ukraine by the West, despite Mr Putin’s public avowals of his desire to restore Russia’s century-old borders as the reason for his assault.

Mr Putin has blamed the West for the failure of negotiations in the opening weeks of the war and praised China’s peace plan for Ukraine that would allow Moscow to cement its territorial gains.

“Beijing proposes practicable and constructive steps to achieve peace by refraining from pursuing vested interests and constant escalation of tensions, minimizing the negative impact of the conflict on the global economy,” he had said.

The visit furthers the effort by China and Russia to topple the US-led Western democratic order in favour of a more authoritarian model that crushes political opposition, human rights and freedom of speech. Mr Putin began a fifth term in office this month.