MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin on Sunday welcomed China's willingness to play a "constructive role" in ending the conflict in Ukraine, saying Sino-Russian relations were "at the highest point".
His Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping heads to Russia on Monday hoping to deliver a breakthrough on Ukraine as Beijing seeks to position itself as a peacemaker.
The quality of ties between Moscow and Beijing is "higher than the political and military unions of the Cold War era", Putin said in an article written for a Chinese newspaper and published by the Kremlin on the eve of Xi's visit.
Putin said he had "high expectations" of his talks with the Chinese leader.
"We have no doubt that they will give a new powerful impetus to the whole bilateral cooperation," he added.
Putin hailed "China's willingness to play a constructive role in resolving" the year-long conflict in Ukraine.
He said he was grateful to Beijing for its "balanced" stance on events in Ukraine and its understanding of the conflict's backstory and the "real reasons" behind it.
"Russia is open to a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis by political-diplomatic means," Putin assured in the article.
However, he insisted on Kyiv's recognition of "new geopolitical realities", namely Russia's annexation last year of four Ukrainian regions, as well as Crimea back in 2014.
"Unfortunately, ultimatums to Russia show that (their authors) are far from these realities and have no interest in seeking a solution," he added.
Announcing the trip Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing would "play a constructive role in promoting peace talks".
Freshly reappointed for a third term in power, Xi is pushing a greater role for China on the global stage, and was crucial in mediating a surprise rapprochement between Middle Eastern rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia this month.