BEIJING, May 23 (Reuters) – Russia’s prime minister signed a series of agreements with China on Wednesday during a trip to Beijing, outlining bilateral ties at an unprecedented level, despite criticism of their relationship in the West as prolongs the war in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent thousands of troops to Ukraine in February 2022, held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang.
With the war in Ukraine in its second year and Russia increasingly feeling the brunt of Western sanctions, Moscow is leaning on Beijing much more than China on Russia, feeding off Chinese demand for oil and gas.
Pressure from the West has shown no signs of abating, with the group of sevenStatements over the weekend from both countries touch on a number of issues, including Ukraine. The G7 agreed to tighten sanctions against Moscow and urged China to pressure Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
“Today, Russia-China relations are at an unprecedented high level,” Mishustin told Li at their meeting.
“They are characterized by mutual respect for each other’s interests, the desire to jointly respond to challenges, which is associated with increased turbulence in the international arena and the pressure of illegitimate sanctions from the collective West,” he said.
“As our Chinese friends say, unity makes it possible to move mountains.”
The signed memorandums of understanding included an agreement to deepen investment cooperation in commercial services, an agreement on exporting agricultural products to China and another on sports cooperation.
Russia’s power shipments to China are expected to rise 40% this year, and the two countries are discussing the supply of technological equipment to Russia, the Interfax news agency reported.
“Given that sanctions against Russia provide new opportunities for China, it is not surprising that China is happy to actively, if not proactively, engage economically with Russia, as long as the relationships they forge do not trigger secondary sanctions against China,” Steve said. Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
“China’s policy toward the war in Ukraine is ‘declare neutrality, support Putin and pay no price,’ and the visit reaffirms that, particularly the support for Putin element,” Tsang said.
Xi visited Russia in March and held talks with “dear friend” President Vladimir Putin, after pledging an “unlimited” partnership just before Russia’s 2022 attack on Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation” to “denazify” your neighbor. .
Beijing has rejected Western attempts to link its partnership with Moscow to Ukraine, insisting that the relationship does not violate international norms, that China has the right to collaborate with any country it chooses and that its cooperation is not directed at third countries.
China and Russia should find ways to “improve the level of economic, trade and investment cooperation,” Xi told Mishustin, and energy is one area in which they could expand collaboration.
Deepening ties with China is a strategic course for Moscow, said Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who held talks on Monday with Chen Wenqing, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo who oversees police, affairs legal and intelligence.
Beijing has refrained from openly denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But since February, Xi has promoted a peace plan, which has been greeted with skepticism by the West and greeted with caution by kyiv.
Last week, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, visited Ukraine and met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a European tour that Beijing announced as its effort to promote peace talks and a political settlement.
Li Hui is scheduled to visit Russia on Friday.
Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly and Ethan Wang; Edited by Michael Perry
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