Xi-Putin firms up China-Russia alliance in video summit amid US, EU pushback

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Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 | Photo: AP|PTI

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday held a virtual summit as part of their efforts to build a strategic alliance against the increasing adversity against them from the United States and the European Union on a host of issues ranging from human rights to Russian troop build-up near Ukraine's border.

The video summit took place in the immediate backdrop of tensions in recent weeks over Russia massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's border, a move which sparked fears in Kiev and the West that Moscow is planning a new invasion.

Russia has denied any plans to attack Ukraine and blamed Kyiv for its own military build-up in the war-torn country.

The summit took place about eight days after Putin had a similar virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden on December 7.

As he began Wednesday's meeting, Putin welcomed Xi by waving his hand and called him his "dear friend".

The Chinese leader responded with the same gesture and a broad smile, Russia's state-run TASS news agency reported.

"Despite the continuing sanitary and epidemic restrictions we maintain permanent contact," Putin said.

Xi and Putin have met 36 times since the Chinese leader assumed his role as the president in 2013. The meetings included a video conference held in June, according to Russian media reports.

In a major gesture of friendship, Putin said he will attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February next year to dent the diplomatic boycott being organised by the US to highlight China's human rights excesses against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Putin also backed China's stand that Taiwan is an integral part of its mainland.

Russia will be the staunchest supporter of the Chinese government's justified position on the Taiwan question and resolutely oppose any forces using the Taiwan question to undermine China's interests, Putin said.

In his speech, Xi said certain international forces under the guise of democracy and human rights are interfering in the internal affairs of China and Russia, and trampling on international law.

"China and Russia should increase their joint efforts to more effectively safeguard the security interests of both parties," China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.

Putin said he considers "these relations a real example of interstate cooperation in the 21st century”, Moscow Times online newspaper reported.

“Our countries have formed a new model of cooperation,” Putin told Xi, underlining that Russia-China ties are a paradigm of international relations in the 21st century.

He lauded Russian-Chinese coordination on the world stage as “a significant factor of stability in international relations”.

Xi said China and Russia have become major champions of real multilateralism and international fairness and justice, in an apparent reference to their alliance against the US, the EU and other Western countries push back against them on a host of issues, including human rights.

The Chinese president said Putin “strongly supported China's efforts to protect key national interests and firmly opposed attempts to drive a wedge between our countries”. “I appreciate it very much,” he said.

The Xi-Putin friendship and their alliance grew stronger since the Chinese leader came to power in 2012 with the two countries increasingly aligning their foreign policies to counter the US domination of the international economic and political order as they faced host of western sanctions.

Amid the growing camaraderie, Moscow, however, maintained its close ties with New Delhi, despite frosty Sino-India ties. Putin visited India on Dec 6, his only second visit abroad since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

For its part, China is facing sanctions over allegations of human rights violation against minorities, especially Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang; crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and Tibet, besides remaining at odds with the west over Taiwan, trade and technology.

Russia has also faced international sanctions for annexing Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and over the allegations of poisoning and jailing opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

In his lengthy speech, Xi said China and Russia should never allow any external forces to interfere in the internal affairs of member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

China and Russia should support member countries of the SCO to steadily carry forward their major domestic political agendas, and never allow any external forces to interfere in the internal affairs of the regional countries under any excuses, Xi said.

The eight-member political, economic and security alliance comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.

Xi also said China is willing to maintain high-level strategic coordination with Russia, and work together to comprehensively enhance the cooperation in various fields among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries.

China will take over as the chair of BRICS next year and host events including the 14th BRICS summit, he said.

Praising Putin's support for China in safeguarding its core interests as well as his objection to attempts to sow discord between China and Russia, Xi said the two countries have firmly supported each other over issues concerning their core interests and safeguarded their common interests. PTI

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