Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds 'long and meaningful' phone call with Chinese President

The Ukrainian President said he believes the call will 'give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations'

China's President Xi Jinping. AP
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had a "long and meaningful" phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Wednesday's call was the first between the two leaders since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

"I had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping," Mr Zelenskyy said on Twitter.

"I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine's ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations," he wrote.

Ukraine's presidential office said more details of what was said would be published later in the day.

Chinese state media reported a readout of the discussion, in which China Central Television (CCTV) reported Mr Xi telling Mr Zelenskyy that "on the issue of the Ukraine crisis, China has always stood on the side of peace and its core position is to promote peace talks".

Mr Xi also told the Ukrainian president that "talks and negotiation" were the "only way out" of the war.

According to the readout, Mr Xi said China "will neither watch the fire from the other side, nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit".

"When dealing with the nuclear issue, all parties concerned should remain calm and restrained, truly focus on the future and destiny of themselves and all mankind, and jointly manage and control the crisis," Mr Xi said.

CCTV said Beijing intends to send an envoy to Kyiv to discuss “a political settlement” for the war.

Mr Zelenskyy's spokesman, Sergiy Nykyforov, said on Facebook that the two had "an almost one hour-long telephone conversation".

In a statement the White House said it welcomed the call.

"We think that's a good thing. We've been saying for quite some time, that we believe it's important for President Xi and PRC officials to avail themselves on the Ukrainian perspective on this illegal and unprovoked invasion by Russia," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.

Mr Zelenskyy has said repeatedly he would be open to talks with his Chinese counterpart.

And talks between the two leaders had been expected for weeks after China produced a 12-point proposal to end the fighting that called for a "political settlement" to the crisis.

The document, which said "the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld", urged the two sides to enter into peace negotiations.

In the paper, Beijing called on Russia and Ukraine to resume peace talks, stating that "dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution".

"The international community should stay committed to the right approach of promoting talks for peace, help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation," it read.

The call came weeks after Mr Xi visited Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Beijing has said it wants to act as a peace mediator in the war.

Meanwhile, Mr Zelenskyy on Wednesday used the 37th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster to repeat his warnings about the potential threat of a new atomic catastrophe in Ukraine during his country's war with Russia.

Mr Zelenskyy drew a parallel between the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986, and Moscow’s brief seizure of the plant and its radiation-contaminated exclusion zone after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“Last year, the occupier not only seized the [Chernobyl] nuclear power plant, but also endangered the entire world again,” the president said in a Telegram post in English.

Russian forces were stationed at the Chernobyl plant between February and March last year, before it was recaptured by Ukrainian troops.

Russian forces have also been stationed at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest and one of the 10 biggest in the world, since capturing the site early in the war.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly accused the Kremlin's forces of using the plant as a base for firing on neighbouring Ukrainian-held territory.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian officials reported that heavy Russian artillery fire hit cities on the western bank of the Dnieper River just across from the plant.

Ukraine’s atomic energy provider Energoatom earlier this month accused Moscow of turning the plant into “a military base, mining the perimeter”.

The plant has six reactors, all of which have been shut down over the past year.

“We must do everything to give no chance to the terrorist state to use nuclear power facilities to blackmail Ukraine and the entire world,” Mr Zelenskyy said in his Telegram post.

Updated: April 26, 2023, 1:57 PM