Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing ahead of a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
Xi invited his “dear friend” Putin to China’s third Belt and Road Initiative forum where the leaders of 130 countries will discuss one of Xi’s signature international projects.
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China is one of the first countries Putin has visited since the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him in March, accusing the Russian leader of illegally deporting children from Ukraine.
China is not one of the 123 countries that are members of the ICC, so it is not obliged to transfer Putin to The Hague for trial.
Earlier this month, Putin visited Kyrgyzstan but China is the first outside of former Soviet republic countries he has visited this year. Kyrgyzstan is also not an ICC member.
Beijing has rejected Western criticism of its partnership with Moscow even as the war in Ukraine continues, insisting that their ties do not violate international norms and that China has the right to collaborate with whichever country it chooses.
Trade between neighbouring China and Russia has been soaring since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with Beijing importing Russian oil after other countries placed sanctions on Russian imports.
In an interview with Chinese state broadcaster CGTN ahead of his visit this week, Putin said that a “multipolar world is taking shape, and the concepts and initiatives put forward by President Xi Jinping are highly relevant and significant”, CGTN reported.
Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov has arrived in Beijing ahead of Putin and held talks with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday.
Xi and Putin last met in Russia in March this year. Speaking at the Kremlin during that visit, Xi told Putin, “Right now there are changes – the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years – and we are the ones driving these changes together.”
Putin last visited China for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022 when Russia and China released a sweeping 5,000-word statement reaffirming their no-limits relationship – days before the Russian president sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.
It is the third time Putin has attended the Belt and Road forum, which continues until Wednesday. He attended the two previous meetings in 2017 and 2019.
Putin has also accepted an invitation from leader Kim Jong Un to visit North Korea after the two presidents met in Russia last month.
Russia’s foreign ministry has already confirmed that Lavrov will visit Pyongyang after leaving Beijing.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies