Russian President Vladimir Putin says after talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping that Chinese proposals could be used as the basis of a peace settlement in Ukraine but that officials in Kyiv are not yet ready.
In a joint statement issued at the end of Mr Xi’s state visit to Moscow, the two men cautioned against any steps that might push the Ukraine conflict into an “uncontrollable phase,” adding pointedly that there could be no winners in a nuclear war.
Mr Putin accused the US and its European allies of fighting “to the last Ukrainian” while Mr Xi reiterated China’s “neutral position” on Ukraine and called for dialogue.
“We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv,” Mr Putin said.
“However, so far we see no such readiness from their side.”
China’s proposal – a 12-point paper calling for a de-escalation and eventual ceasefire in Ukraine – lacks details on how to end the war.
The US has been dismissive of the Chinese proposal, given China’s refusal to condemn Russia over Ukraine, and said a ceasefire now would lock in Russian territorial gains and give Mr Putin’s army more time to regroup.
Ukraine has welcomed China’s diplomatic involvement but said Russia must pull its troops out of Ukraine, and underlined the importance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
The Kremlin talks were intended to cement the “no limits” partnership the two leaders announced last February, less than three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
They signed a series of documents on a “strategic co-operation” after what Mr Putin described as “successful and constructive” talks showing China was clearly now Russia’s most important economic partner.
“I am convinced that our multifaceted co-operation will continue to develop for the good of the peoples of our countries,” Mr Putin said in televised remarks.
The Chinese leader visited Moscow days after an international court issued an arrest warrant for Mr Putin over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where Russian forces have made little progress in recent months despite suffering heavy losses.
In their joint statement, Mr Xi and Mr Putin also called on the US to stop “undermining global strategic security” and to cease developing a global missile defence system.
While pledging more regular joint military drills, however, the two leaders said their closer bilateral relationship was not directed against any third country and that it did not constitute a “military-political alliance”.
Mr Putin said Russia, China and Mongolia had completed all agreements on a planned pipeline to ship Russian gas to China, and that Russia was ready to increase oil exports to China.
He also said Russia was ready to help Chinese businesses replace foreign firms that have left Russia over the Ukraine conflict.
The planned Power of Siberia 2 pipeline would deliver 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year from Russia to China via Mongolia.
Russia put forward the idea many years ago but it has gained urgency as Moscow turns to China to replace Europe as its major gas customer.
Russia’s Gazprom already supplies gas to China through an existing Power of Siberia pipeline under a 30-year, $US400 billion ($601 billion) deal launched at the end of 2019.
That pipeline spans 3000 kilometres.
Russia’s gas exports to China are still a small fraction of the record 177 bcm it delivered to Europe in 2018-19.
Mr Putin said on Tuesday Russia would deliver at least 98 bcm of gas to China by 2030.
On the battlefields
Russia kept up air raids as well as missile and rocket strikes over a wide area in the east, the Ukrainian military said.
Ukraine said Russia’s main aim was to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the Donbas, large areas of which are already under Russian control.
Russian forces had attacked once again in the city Bakhmut – site of the longest and bloodiest battle of the war – and other targets but had been repelled, it said.
“The occupiers are not stopping their assault on the city of Bakhmut,” it said.
Ukraine also said on Tuesday an explosion in Dzhankoi city, in the north of the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula, destroyed Russian Kalibr-KN cruise missiles as they were being transported by rail.