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Putin and Xi to meet in Uzbekistan as Russia-China ties blossom

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Beijing in February. (Alexei Druzhinin/Pool/Sputnik/Kremlin/AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to meet at a summit in Uzbekistan next week as part of the Chinese ruler’s first overseas visit since the pandemic.

It would also be the two leaders’ first face-to-face meeting since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, said the two countries were planning a “serious, full-fledged meeting with a detailed agenda” for the Sept. 15-16 Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

The visit underlines the importance of the China-Russia relationship to Beijing, even as China has come under heightened criticism for supporting Russia throughout the war on Ukraine. In February, weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Putin visited China, attending the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. He and Xi signed a joint statement declaring their partnership was one of “no limits” and mapping out a vision for a new international order that is not dominated by the West.

Analysis: Russia becomes China’s ‘junior partner’

While Beijing insists that it supports peace, it has not condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine and has blamed the United States and NATO for causing the crisis by inflaming what Chinese officials say are Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.”

This week, China attended the Vostok 2022 joint military exercises held by Russia in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. Beijing sent more than 2,000 troops, more than 20 combat aircraft and three warships to the exercises, marking the first time China sent forces from all branches of its military.

Senior Chinese official Li Zhanshu attended the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, on Wednesday. Li, the most senior Chinese official to visit Russia since the war in Ukraine began, will meet with Putin, according to the Tass news agency.

Li said in a speech Wednesday that China would work to “upgrade cooperation” between the two countries, in areas including agriculture, energy, investment and environmental protection.

On China-Russia border, new bonds are forged against U.S. over Ukraine

“China will fully implement the important consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin,” Li said.

On Monday, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said Xi would meet Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Sept. 14. The visit to Kazakhstan, where Xi in 2013 unveiled his flagship foreign policy, the Belt and Road Initiative, would come less than two months before a crucial party congress where Xi is expected to be given a precedent-breaking third term.

Pei-Lin Wu and Vic Chiang in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.

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