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International relations

Putin says Xi to visit Russia, ties reaching 'new frontiers'

China's top diplomat Wang Yi vows support for 'multipolarity'

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, greets  Wang Yi, China's Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, during a meeting in Moscow on Feb 22.   © Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that China's Xi Jinping would visit Russia, saying relations had reached "new frontiers" amid U.S. concerns Beijing could provide material support to the invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese weapons supplies to Russia would threaten a potential escalation of the war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance on the other.

Putin welcomed China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, to the Kremlin, telling him bilateral trade was better than expected and could soon reach $200 billion a year, up from $185 billion in 2022.

"We await a visit of the President of the People's Republic of China to Russia, we have agreed on this," Putin told Wang.

"Everything is progressing, developing. We are reaching new frontiers," Putin said.

Tass news agency cited Yi -- who held a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov -- as saying China would "firmly adhere to an objective and impartial position and play a constructive role in the political settlement of the crisis."

The Russian foreign ministry said it welcomed China taking a more active role in efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and said it valued China's "balanced approach." But in a separate statement, the ministry said Lavrov and Yi had not discussed a reported Chinese peace plan.

For Putin, China's big-power support amid the biggest confrontation with the West since the height of the Cold War allows him to cast Russia's isolation in the West as a tilt towards Asia.

Wang told Putin that relations between the two countries had withstood the pressure from a volatile international situation and that crises offered certain opportunities.

The relationship between China and Russia, Wang said through an interpreter, was not directed against any third party but equally would "not succumb to pressure from third parties" -- a clear jab at the United States.

"Together we support multi-polarity and democratization in international relations," Wang told Putin.

When Xi met Putin face to face just before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, they sealed a "no limits" partnership that triggered anxiety in the West.

China is Russia's largest buyer of oil, one of the key sources of revenues for Moscow's state coffers.

For Xi, Russia is now more dependent on Beijing than ever and is a junior partner to a resurgent China, which already leads in many 21st century technologies.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday warned Wang of consequences should China provide material support to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing has denied providing military support to Russia.

After Blinken's warnings, for which he did not supply evidence, China said the United States was in no position to make demands.

"No matter how the international situation changes, China has been and remains committed, together with Russia, to make efforts to preserve the positive trend in the development of relations between major powers," Wang told Lavrov.

Xi has stood by Putin during the conflict in Ukraine, resisting Western pressure to isolate Moscow. Chinese-Russian trade has soared since the invasion of Ukraine, and Russia has boosted oil exports to Asian countries, including China.

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