Chinese leader Xi Jinping is keeping the West guessing about whether Beijing will cooperate with tougher sanctions on Russia as he meets President Vladimir Putin, a year after declaring they had a “no limits” friendship ahead of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
China has avoided violating sanctions but its purchases of Russian oil and gas rose almost 60% in August over a year ago to 11.2 billion dollars (£9.6 billion).
That helps to top up Moscow’s cash flow after the United States, Europe and Japan cut purchases and expelled Russia from the global banking system.
Russia, in turn, has strongly backed China amid tensions with the US that followed a recent visit to Taiwan by US House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“China has taken a well-balanced approach to the Ukrainian crisis, clearly expressing its understanding of the reasons that prompted Russia to launch the special military operation,” Mr Ushakov said.
“The issue will be thoroughly discussed during the meeting.”
The talks follow their meeting in February, when the Russian leader attended the opening of the Beijing Olympics shortly before sending troops into Ukraine.
Mr Ushakov noted that “the discussion of issues related to trade and economic cooperation is particularly important”, adding that “in the difficult conditions amid unlawful Western sanctions this cooperation has remained stable and continued gaining tempo.”
On Friday, Mr Putin and Mr Xi will attend the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a security grouping dominated by Russia and China that also includes India, Pakistan and ex-Soviet Central Asian nations.
Iran and some other countries are on track to membership.
The leaders have developed strong personal ties to bolster a “strategic partnership” between the former Communist rivals as they both are now locked in rivalry with the US.
Even though Moscow and Beijing in the past ruled out a military alliance, Mr Putin has said that such a prospect cannot be excluded.
In a show of military muscle amid the tensions with the West, Russia and China have held joint military drills in Russia and the Sea of Japan that also involved several other nations.