Chinese Xi set to meet Russian Putin virtually on Wednesday

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JUNE 6, 2019: Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a ceremony at Saint Petersburg University in which Xi Jinping received a honorary doctorate from the University of St. Petersburg.

Alexei Nikolsky | TASS | Getty Images

BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin virtually on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The two leaders last met at the end of June, also via video link. The meeting comes as growing tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border have drawn international attention.

The United States and other Group of 7 leaders issued a statement on Sunday condemning “Russia’s military build-up and aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine.” Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom are part of the bloc of major economies.

China is not part of the G-7, but the Asian giant was at the center of the group’s discussions at a meeting over the weekend, Reuters reported, citing officials.

China, which shares a long border with Russia, has focused a large part of its bilateral relations on trade, especially energy. Amid a coal shortage this year, China this year bought significant amounts of coal and other fuels from its northern neighbor.

Beijing’s position on Ukraine is less clear. Xi spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

In a virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden last week, Putin said Washington should not allow Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in exchange for assurances that Russian troops will not. would not lead an attack.

Biden said Washington would not accept such a request.

An attack on a member of NATO – a powerful military alliance – is considered an attack on all member countries. Ukraine has wanted to join the alliance since 2002, but Russia opposed it on the grounds that such a move would constitute a direct threat to its borders.

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