BEIJING, May 23 (Reuters) – Russia and China are set to sign a series of bilateral agreements on Wednesday during the Russian prime minister’s trip to Beijing, as the two neighboring giants pledge closer cooperation even then that the West remains critical of their relations in the midst of war. in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin – the highest ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent thousands of its troops to Ukraine in February 2022 – was speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, according to the Russian government.
“Following the talks, a number of bilateral agreements are expected to be signed,” Russian news agency Interfax reported, without giving further details.
The visit comes after Russia and China reacted furiously to weekend statements from the G-7 that pointed fingers at them on a range of issues, including Ukraine, nuclear weapons and economic coercion.
Xi visited Russia in March and spoke with “dear friend” President Vladimir Putin, after engaging in a “limitless” partnership just before Russia’s 2022 attack on Ukraine, what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
Beijing has rejected Western attempts to link its partnership with Moscow to Ukraine, insisting that their relationship does not violate international norms, that China has the right to collaborate with whomever it chooses and that their cooperation is not aimed at any third country.
In a show of support, the Chinese premier on Tuesday sent a congratulatory letter to the China-Russia business forum in Shanghai, which was attended by Mishustin and a large group of Russian tycoons, saying China is willing to expand economic and trade exchanges. bilateral.
In April, Chinese exports to Russia continued their momentum, climbing 153.1% from a year earlier, after more than doubling in March, according to data from China Customs.
Energy shipments from Russia to China are expected to increase by 40% this year, and the two countries are discussing supplying technological equipment to Russia, the Interfax news agency reported.
Deepening ties with China is a strategic path for Moscow, said Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who spoke on Monday with Chen Wenqing, a member of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo who oversees the police, the legal affairs and intelligence.
Mishustin’s visit comes at a time when Ukraine is preparing a counter-offensive with the aim of retaking territory occupied by Russian forces.
Beijing has refrained from openly denouncing the Russian invasion. But since February, Xi has promoted a 12-point peace plan, which has been met 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 with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, kicking off a European tour that Beijing has called an effort to promote peace talks and a political settlement of the crisis.
Li Hui is due to travel to Russia on Friday, Russian news agency TASS reported.
Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly and Ethan Wang; Editing by Michael Perry
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