Vladimir Putin told Xi Jinping he expects the Chinese president to visit Moscow for a state visit in the new year in what would be a show of support.
Putin’s buoyant remarks at the start of a video call yesterday contrasted with a short statement from Mr Xi, who made no mention of such a visit.
In an attempt to counter the Kremlin’s image of growing isolation, Putin, the Russian president, said he expected a state visit in spring next year to “demonstrate to the world the closeness of Russian-Chinese relations”.
“We are expecting you, dear Mr Chairman, dear friend,” Putin said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dismayed some of Moscow’s long-standing allies, including China and India, who have both recently called for an end to hostilities.
Mr Xi, who also called Putin a “dear friend” but appeared more restrained, did not publicly respond to the mention of a Moscow visit, and a Kremlin spokesman said no date has been set for the visit.
A few months after he had to publicly admit Beijing had “concerns” about the Russian invasion, Putin claimed yesterday that the two countries now “share the same views on the causes and developments in the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape”.
Mr Xi said China was ready to boost cooperation with Russia in light of what he called a “difficult” situation in the world. He also noted Moscow’s “willingness” to seek a diplomatic solution to the war.
Kremlin officials have repeatedly said they are ready to sit down for peace talks with Ukraine as long as Kyiv recognises Moscow’s battlefield gains.
This makes the prospects of an agreement slim, given that the Ukrainian leadership is pledging to take back all territories captured by Russian troops.
Mr Xi said China was willing to work with Russia to “firmly defend the sovereignty” of both countries, adding that the world now stands at “the crossroads of history”.
Taiwan, which Mr Xi has promised to take over, is considered sovereign China by Beijing.
After multiple rounds of crippling economic sanctions, the Kremlin has been forced to look for new markets in the absence of the sprawling energy infrastructure it shared with Europe.
During yesterday’s call, the Russian president praised efforts by China and Russia to jointly produce oil and gas and boasted of “unprecedented levels of energy supplies” from Russia.
But Beijing has been careful not to breach international sanctions.
China’s Huawei and other major corporations decided to withdraw from the Russian market.
Many hardliners in Russia have openly accused Beijing of betraying Russia, pointing out that Moscow is left without staunch allies willing to help financially and militarily like the United States in Ukraine.
Sergey Markov, a former lawmaker who often channels Kremlin narratives, expressed the widely held resentment about lack of support from China.
“What does Russia need from China right now? For China to send in massive amounts of weapons,” he said on his Telegram channel. “Words no longer carry much weight.”
A state Russian news agency appeared to reference the widespread disappointment in China’s position.
RIA Novosti admitted China is “not going to get itself exposed to anti-Russian sanctions” but insisted Beijing was already helping Russia to get around them: “In reality, there are lots of ways to bypass sanctions - just not as fast and straightforward as Russia would like.”