Vladimir Putin declared relations between Russia and China were “at their highest point” after concluding a second day of talks with Xi Jinping, which included agreement on constructing a new pipeline between the two countries.
Mr Putin said he hoped to remain in constant contact with Mr Xi in future, after receiving an invitation from his Chinese counterpart to visit Beijing later this year.
The Russian leader described the talks, aimed at cementing their countries' “no limits” partnership, as “meaningful”.
At a joint press conference, Mr Putin said the West was fighting to the last in Ukraine. He added that Moscow would react if Britain sent depleted uranium ammunition — a reference to the armour-piercing rounds on Challenger 2 tanks — to Kyiv.
The two leaders signed agreements on strategic co-operation covering trade and energy, and discussed what Mr Putin called “illegitimate” restrictions placed on Russia by other countries. Economic co-operation between Moscow and Beijing would be “a priority” for Russia, Mr Putin said, sitting alongside Mr Xi.
Mr Putin encouraged Mr Xi to replace western firms who have deserted Russia with Chinese businesses, as the two leaders met at the Kremlin on Tuesday. More than 1,000 western companies have publicly announced they are curtailing operations in Russia, according to a Yale study, which also pointed out that hundreds have chosen to remain.
The Russian President also said Russia could meet China's “growing demand” for energy, and the pair had discussed the proposed Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, which would ship Russian gas to China. The planned Power of Siberia 2 pipeline would deliver 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas per year from Russia to China via Mongolia. Moscow put forward the idea many years ago, but it has gained urgency as Russia turns to China to replace Europe as its major gas customer.
Moscow was ready to increase oil exports to Beijing, Mr Putin said.
Earlier, Mr Xi invited Mr Putin to visit Beijing later this year and said he would prioritise ties with Moscow.
“I propose strengthening our co-ordination and co-operation,” Mr Xi said, during the meeting on the second day of talks with the Russian leader.
“Political trust between our countries is deepening, common interests are growing, our peoples are becoming closer and co-operation is developing in trade, investment, energy, humanitarian and interregional dimensions,” Tass quoted Mr Xi as telling Mr Putin and other Russian officials.
“I am convinced that our multifaceted co-operation will continue to develop for the good of the peoples of our countries,” Mr Putin said, in televised comments to Mr Xi, adding that Russia is a “strategic supplier” of oil, gas and coal to China.
Mr Xi said China and Russia should work more closely to push forward greater “practical co-operation”.
China’s Xi Jinping meets Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 'peace and friendship' trip
“The early harvest of [our] co-operation can be seen, and further co-operation is being advanced,” Mr Xi told Mr Putin, according to Hong Kong cable television.
In more than four hours of talks on Monday, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a major topic for the leaders, according to both sides, with Putin saying before the meeting that he’s ready to discuss China’s initiative for ending the war.
Beijing has put forward a 12-point position paper on the conflict, which includes a call for dialogue and respect for all countries' territorial sovereignty
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday urged Beijing to take into account Ukraine's conditions for peace with Russia.
“It is for Ukraine to decide what are acceptable conditions for any peaceful solution,” Mr Stoltenberg said at a press conference, pointing out that China had failed to condemn Moscow's invasion.
China has sought to portray itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, but Washington has said Beijing's moves could be a “stalling tactic” to help Moscow.
Mr Stoltenberg said he had not yet seen any proof that China is delivering weapons to Russia.
Mr Putin and Mr Xi spoke for more than four hours and ate a seven-course private dinner after the Chinese leader's arrival in Moscow on Monday.
They resumed talks on Tuesday afternoon, when Mr Xi walked slowly up the opulent red-carpeted staircase of the Grand Kremlin Palace as guards in 19th century-style parade uniforms snapped at attention.
Mr Putin was waiting to greet the Chinese leader in St. George's hall where walls are covered by white-marble plaques with gold engravings of the names of military units and soldiers awarded with the order of St. George, a top military award established by Catherine the Great.
In a tightly-choreographed ceremony filled with imperial grandeur, the two leaders entered the huge chandeliered room from opposite sides and shook hands in the middle to the tune of the Russian and Chinese national anthems.
They walked past a line-up of Russian and Chinese officials to sit down for talks. Mr Putin and Mr Xi both wore black suits and dark red ties.
The pageantry reflected the importance of Mr Xi's visit to Russia that gave a strong political boost to Mr Putin just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader on charges of alleged involvement in abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.
Moscow, which does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction, dismissed the move as “legally null and void,” but it further ramped up the pressure on the Russian leader as the fighting in Ukraine has dragged into a second year.
Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it had protested to Canada's top diplomat in Moscow over comments by Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly about “regime change” in Russia.
The ministry said it summoned Canadian charge d'affaires Brian Ebel on Monday and told him Ms Joly's comments were unacceptable. A Canadian government source confirmed the official had been summoned.
“We're able to see how much we're isolating the Russian regime right now — because we need to do so economically, politically and diplomatically — and what are the impacts also on society and how much we're seeing potential regime change in Russia,” Canadian media quoted Ms Joly as saying at a news conference on March 10.
The Russian statement condemned the “Russophobic attack” and said it would have serious consequences for relations. Russia reserved the right to take “appropriate countermeasures” depending on Ottawa's further steps.