Putin, Xi hold summit as Ukraine war dominates

Russia At War

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan (NewsNation) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for talks on boosting ties between their countries, an encounter that follows a major setback for Moscow on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The two leaders met Thursday in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security alliance created as a counterweight to U.S. influence that also includes India, Pakistan and four ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia.

Along with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, backdropping the summit are the brief eruption not far from the event site of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as strains in China’s relations with Washington, Europe, Japan and India due to disputes over technology, security and territory.

Speaking at the start of his one-on-one talks with Xi, Putin blasted what he described as an “ugly” effort by the United States and its allies to maintain their perceived global domination.

“Attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken an absolutely ugly shape. They are absolutely unacceptable for the vast majority of countries on the globe,” the Russian president said in opening remarks.

Xi was more careful, saying that together with Russia, China was ready to “set an example of a responsible world power and to play a leading role to take the rapidly changing world on a track of sustainable and positive development.”

The SCO summit in the ancient city of Samarkand is part of Xi’s first foreign trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic 2 1/2 years ago, underscoring Beijing’s desire to assert itself as a regional power.

The presidents’ meeting came after Russia was forced to pull back its forces from large swaths of northeastern Ukraine last week amid a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukraine regaining control of several Russian-occupied villages and cities represented Moscow’s largest setback since its forces had to retreat from areas near the Ukrainian capital early in the war.

Xi’s government, which said it had a “no limits” friendship with Moscow before the invasion of Ukraine in late February, has refused to criticize Russia’s military actions. Beijing and India are buying more Russian oil and gas, which helps Moscow offset the impact of Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.

“We highly appreciate the well-balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis,” Putin said at the start of his talks with Xi.

Russia, in turn, has strongly backed China amid tensions with the U.S. that followed recent visits to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress.

“We condemn the provocations of the U.S. and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait,” Putin told Xi.

Putin also met Thursday with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country is on track to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Raisi said Moscow and Tehran were finalizing a major treaty that would bring their relations to a “strategic level.”

On Thursday, Xi met with President Sadyr Zhaparov of Kyrgyzstan and said Beijing supports the “early operation” of a planned railway linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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