Russian president Vladimir Putin has said Chinese proposals could form the basis of a peace deal for Ukraine, and warned that Moscow would be “forced to react” if Britain went through with a plan to supply Kyiv with tank shells tipped with depleted uranium.
After a second day of talks in the Kremlin, Mr Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping signed agreements to deepen “strategic co-operation” and develop key areas of economic collaboration between their countries, as the vast neighbours and nuclear powers said their relations were entering “a new era”.
The West is closely watching Mr Xi’s visit for signs of how much support China is willing to give Russia, amid concerns that Moscow wants arms supplies from Beijing, and just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Mr Putin over alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.
China recently unveiled a broad ceasefire proposal for Ukraine, which Beijing says respects international law and the United Nations charter, but does not condemn Russia’s invasion or call for the withdrawal of its troops from Kyiv’s sovereign territory.
“We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are in line with Russian approaches, and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for it in the West and in Kiev,” Mr Putin said.
[ US condemns Xi Jinping visit to Moscow days after ICC arrest warrant for Putin ]
Mr Xi said China had an “impartial position” on the conflict and was “in favour of active reconciliation”, one year into a full Russian invasion of Ukraine that has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions and disrupted world food and energy supplies.
“We are always in favour of peace and dialogue, and we firmly stand on right side of history,” Mr Xi added.
The US has dismissed China’s ceasefire plan as a sham, arguing that any halt to hostilities now – without the withdrawal of Russian forces – would only cement the Kremlin’s occupation of parts of eastern and southeastern Ukraine and give it time to patch up and rearm its beleaguered military in preparation for new offensives.
Ukrainian officials say their country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, hopes to speak to Mr Xi after his visit to Russia.
Moscow has condemned Western states for supplying arms to Kyiv, and denounced Britain for planning to send tank shells tipped with depleted uranium to Ukraine’s military.
“Alongside our granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will be providing ammunition including armour piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium. Such rounds are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles,” said British minister of state for defence Annabel Goldie.
Mr Putin warned: “I would like to note that if all this happens, then Russia will be forced to react accordingly, bearing in mind that the collective West is already starting to use weapons with a nuclear component.”
Kyiv says the Kremlin’s escalating threats reveal its frustration over the failure of its military campaign, and its growing concern over the potential impact of a spring offensive by Ukrainian forces that are now receiving more advanced weapons from allies.
As the Chinese and Russian leaders talked in Moscow, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Kyiv to meet Mr Zelenskiy and visited the nearby city of Bucha, where Russian forces killed and tortured dozens of civilians during their month-long occupation last year.
“As I step foot in Bucha today, and witness all the brutality that took place here, I have a strong sentiment of indignation,” he said in translated comments. “All the world is shocked by the atrocity that was committed in the city of Bucha.”