- By Marita Moloney
- BBC News
The US has urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to pressure Vladimir Putin to stop war crimes in Ukraine.
The two will meet again on Tuesday for official talks during Mr Xi’s first visit to Moscow since the invasion.
A White House National Security Council spokesman called on Mr Xi to urge the Russian delegation to withdraw troops from Ukraine.
John Kirby said it was not enough to demand a ceasefire.
“We hope President Xi will pressure President Putin to stop bombing Ukrainian cities, hospitals and schools, stop war crimes and atrocities, and withdraw his forces,” he said.
“But we are concerned that China will instead reiterate calls for a cease-fire that leaves Russian forces within Ukraine’s sovereign territory, and that a cease-fire that does not address the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine will effectively confirm Russia’s illegal gains.”
In another development, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has made a surprise visit to Ukraine for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. He is expected to voice solidarity and support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
Japan and China see each other as regional rivals. Since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Tokyo has provided Kiev with a mix of humanitarian, financial and non-lethal military aid.
On Monday, Mr Xi and Mr Putin held what were described as informal talks for more than four hours, with more formal discussions planned for Tuesday.
China’s support for Russia – currently based on technology and trade – could become military, including artillery shells.
Mr Putin said he would discuss a 12-point plan proposed by Mr Xi to “resolve the serious crisis in Ukraine”.
“We are always ready for the negotiation process,” Mr Putin said, as the leaders called each other “dear friends”.
China released its plan It ended the war last month – That includes “ceasing hostilities” and resuming peace talks.
China’s plan does not specifically call for Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine – which Ukraine has insisted is a precondition for any talks.
Instead, it spoke of “respecting the sovereignty of all countries”, saying that “all parties should be rational and exercise restraint” and “gradually de-escalate the situation”.
The plan also condemned the use of “unilateral sanctions” – seen as an implicit criticism of Ukraine’s allies in the West.
On Monday, a military band gave Mr Xi a warm welcome to Moscow at the start of a three-day visit. Mr Putin praised China for “adhering to the principles of justice” and pushing for “undivided security for every country”.
China has made a huge leap in development in recent years, he added: “We’re a bit envious.”
In response, Mr Xi told Mr Putin: “Under your strong leadership, Russia has made great progress in its prosperous development. I am confident that the Russian people will continue to give you firm support.”
Before Mr Xi’s visit, Mr Putin wrote in China’s People’s Daily newspaper that the two countries would not be weakened by an “aggressive” US policy.
Ukrainian leaders tout their common position with China – respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity – but privately, they have been lobbying for a meeting or phone call between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Mr Xi.
This was echoed by US defense spokesman Mr Kirby, who urged Mr Xi to “play a constructive role” in trying to end the standoff by talking to Mr Zelensky.
Russia is the source of oil for Beijing’s largest economy and is seen as a partner in countering the United States.
Mr Xi’s trip to Moscow comes days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president on war crimes charges. That means Mr Putin can technically be arrested in 123 countries, although neither China nor Russia are on that list.
Western leaders have been trying since February to isolate Russia following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
But they have been unable to forge a global consensus, with China, India and many African countries reluctant to condemn Mr Putin.
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