War in Ukraine: Vladimir Putin reassures China he understands 'concerns' over Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin addressed China’s “questions and concerns” over its invasion of Ukraine at his first face-to-face meting with his Chinese counterpart since the war began.

At a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan on Thursday, Mr Putin said he “highly appreciates” China’s “balanced position” regarding the conflict and also backed China amid tensions over Taiwan, following a visit by US house speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The meeting comes as the balance of power in the Ukraine-Russia conflict has shifted in recent days, where Ukraine has said it has regained huge swathes of territory. Kyiv retaking 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.

“[Russia] understands your questions and concerns about this,” Mr Putin told Mr Xi. "During today's meeting, we will of course explain our position.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mongolia's President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh hold a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation leaders' summit in Samarkand. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

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“We highly appreciate the well-balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis.”

Mr Putin added: "We condemn the provocations of the US and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait.”

The trip by Ms Pelosi sparked unprecedented military drills by China around the self-governing island. China claims Taiwan as its own territory and opposes it having its own engagements with foreign governments.

The pair are holding talks on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a regional security-focused grouping that also includes India, Pakistan and four Central Asian nations. The meeting is Mr Xi's first foreign trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic two-and-a-half years ago.

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Mr Xi and Mr Putin last met in person in Beijing ahead of the Winter Olympic Games, just weeks ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, where they joined forces in criticising what they said was a negative US influence both in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region, and in opposing “the further expansion of Nato” in a “Cold War era” approach.

At the time, Mr Xi said China had a "no-limits" friendship with Moscow.

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In a statement released by the Kremlin on Thursday, Mr Putin said: “The foreign policy tandem of Moscow and Beijing plays a key role in ensuring global and regional stability. We jointly stand for the formation of a just, democratic and multi-polar world order based on international rules and the central role of the UN.”

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At the summit, the Russian president condemned 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,” he said. “They are absolutely unacceptable for the vast majority of countries on the globe.”

Mr 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".

China, along with India, has been buying more Russian oil and gas, which has helped take the edge off stringent sanctions imposed on Moscow by many Western nations. Russia has also been expelled from the global banking system.

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