Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to Beijing on Friday amid soaring tension over Ukraine on a trip intended to strengthen Moscow’s ties with China and co-ordinate their policies in the face of growing Western pressure.
Mr Putin’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping will mark their first in-person meeting since 2019, helping cement a strong personal relationship that has been a telling factor of the growing partnership between the two former Communist rivals.
After the negotiations involving leading officials from both sides, the presidents will meet one-on-one over lunch before attending the opening of the Winter Olympics.
In an article for the Chinese news agency Xinhua published on Thursday, Mr Putin emphasised that Moscow and Beijing play an “important stabilising role” in global affairs.
“Our countries play an important stabilising role in today’s challenging international environment, promoting greater democracy in the system of international relations to make it more equitable and inclusive,” he wrote.
In an apparent reference to a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics by the US and some of its allies, the Russian president deplored “attempts by some countries to politicise sports to the benefit of their ambitions”.
While Western officials kept away from the Beijing Games in protest over China’s detention of more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in the north-western region of Xinjiang, leaders of the ex-Soviet Central Asian nations, which have close ties with both Russia and China, all attended.
“Foreign policy co-ordination between Russia and China is based on close and coinciding approaches to solving global and regional issues,” Mr Putin wrote.
His call for stronger ties with China comes as tension mounts over Ukraine, with US intelligence giving a warning that Russia is preparing for an invasion.
The summit on February 4 before the Beijing Winter Olympics starts will be the first in-person meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Xi in more than two years, as the two countries seek to galvanise their political, military and economic links to counter the West on the global stage.
A buildup of more than 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fuelled Western fears that Moscow is poised to invade its neighbour.
Russia has denied planning an offensive but urged the US and its allies to provide a binding pledge that Nato will not permit Ukraine nor other former Soviet nations to join the alliance, to limit troops and weapons on the eastern flank, and to withdraw its military forces from Eastern Europe — demands rejected firmly by the West.
AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report