BEIJING, May 23 (Reuters) – Russia’s prime minister signed deals with China on Wednesday, detailing bilateral ties as the war in Ukraine drags on and ties are at an all-time high.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin — the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent thousands of troops to Ukraine in February 2022 — held talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and was due to meet President Xi Jinping.
As Russia increasingly feels the weight of the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions in its second year, Moscow has leaned on Beijing’s support, feeding China’s oil and gas demand rather than Russia’s.
The Group of Seven’s weekend declarations showed no signs of easing pressure from the West, which isolated the two countries on a range of issues including Ukraine.
“Today, relations between Russia and China are at an unprecedentedly high level,” Mishustin told Li.
“They mutually respect each other’s interests, the willingness to jointly respond to challenges, which is associated with increased turbulence in the international arena and a pattern of sensational pressure from the collective West,” he said.
“As our Chinese friends say, unity makes it possible to move mountains.”
The MoUs signed include an agreement to deepen investment cooperation in trade services, an agreement to export agricultural products to China and another on sports cooperation.
Russia’s energy exports to China are expected to rise 40% this year, and the two countries are discussing supplying Russia with technological equipment, the Interfax news agency reported.
“As sanctions against Russia present new opportunities for China, it is not surprising that China is happy to actively engage with Russia as long as it does not trigger secondary sanctions against Russia, even if it is not economically prudent,” said Steve Chang. , Director of The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) China Institute in London.
“China’s policy on the war in Ukraine is to “declare neutrality, support Putin and pay no price,” and the visit reaffirms that, especially support for the Putin element,” Zhang said.
Xi visited Russia in March for talks with “dear friend” President Vladimir Putin after pledging a “no-limits” partnership for what Moscow calls “special military action” just ahead of Russia’s 2022 attack on Ukraine.
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 cooperate with whomever it chooses, and that their cooperation does not target any third countries.
“China is willing to work with Russia to implement joint cooperation between the two countries, and promoting practical cooperation in various fields can take it to a new level,” Li told Mishustin.
Deepening ties with China is a strategic lesson for Moscow, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said Monday in talks with Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Chen Wenqing.
Beijing has not openly condemned Russia’s invasion. But since February, Xi has promoted a peace plan that has met with Western skepticism and been greeted with caution by Kyiv.
Last week, China’s Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui visited Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky on a European tour, Beijing’s bid to promote peace talks and a political solution to the crisis.
Li Hui is scheduled to visit Russia on Friday.
Reporting by Ryan Wu; Additional reporting by Lydia Kelly and Ethan Wang; Editing by Michael Perry
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.