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International relations

Putin expects China's Xi to make state visit to Russia in spring

Two leaders hold video meeting, but Chinese side makes no mention of trip

Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a video meeting with China's President Xi Jinping on Dec. 30. (Sputnik via Reuters)

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he was expecting Chinese President Xi Jinping to make a state visit early next year, in what would be a public show of solidarity from Beijing amid Russia's flailing invasion of Ukraine.

In effusive introductory remarks from a video conference between the two leaders broadcast on state television, Putin also said he aimed to strengthen military cooperation with China.

Putin's statement, which lasted around eight minutes, highlighted Russia's dramatic pivot away from the Western powers that have ostracised it economically and politically for its actions in Ukraine, and given Ukraine weapons, towards courting the rising global power of long-time rival China.

"We are expecting you, dear. Mr Chairman, dear friend, we are expecting you next spring on a state visit to Moscow," Putin told Xi. "This will demonstrate to the whole world the strength of Russian-Chinese ties on key issues."

Putin's remarks contrasted with a far shorter statement from Xi, who made no mention of a visit to Moscow, according to the official translation into Russian.

The two men had signed a "no limits" strategic partnership in February, informed by shared distrust of the West, a few days before Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine in what it terms a "special military operation".

Putin told Xi on Friday: "You and I share the same views on the causes, course and logic of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape, in the face of unprecedented pressure and provocations from the West."

Since European countries cut links with Russia over the invasion, Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia as China's top crude supplier.

On Friday Russia's Finance Ministry doubled the maximum possible share of Chinese yuan in its National Wealth Fund (NWF) to 60% as Moscow tries to end dependency on "unfriendly" nations including the United States, European Union members, Britain and Japan.

Moscow has also publicly backed Xi's position on Taiwan and accused the West of trying to provoke a conflict over the status of the self-governing island, which China claims as its own.

However, Xi has at times appeared cool on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. China has refrained from condemnation, instead stressing the need for peace, but Putin in September publicly acknowledged that his Chinese counterpart had "concerns" over Russia's actions.

Beijing has so far been careful not to provide the sort of direct material support for the invasion that could provoke Western sanctions against China.

Although Xi called Putin his "dear friend", his introductory statement, at around a quarter the length of Putin's, was far more restrained in tone.

He did, however, say China was ready to increase strategic cooperation with Russia against the backdrop of what he called a "difficult" situation in the world at large.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no date had yet been set for Xi's visit.

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