Putin acknowledges China’s concerns about Ukraine in reference to friction

  • Putin says he will explain Moscow’s position to China
  • The Russians in the East are digging in – Ukrainian official
  • EU chief in Kyiv says good progress on accession

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he understands Chinese President Xi Jinping has concerns about the situation in Ukraine, in a surprising acknowledgment of a rift with Beijing over the war after a week of Russia’s staggering losses on the ground.

Since the Russian invasion, China has taken a cautious approach, criticizing Western sanctions against Russia but not supporting or assisting in the military campaign.

“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis,” Putin said in their first meeting since the war began. Read more

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“We understand your questions and concerns about this. During today’s meeting, we will of course explain our position.”

Xi did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor was it mentioned in a Chinese reading of their meeting, which was held in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of a regional summit.

Beijing’s support is widely seen as essential to Moscow, which needs markets for its energy exports and sources to import high-tech goods while facing sanctions imposed by the West.

The last time the two men met, they signed a “borderless” friendship agreement between the two countries. Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Russian president’s comments indicated a Chinese shift toward a more critical stance, at least in private. It was “the first public sign of Putin’s acknowledgment of pressure to back down,” said Ian Bremer, a professor of political science at Columbia University.

“Russia has become pariah from the G7 because of its invasion. China doesn’t want any part of that,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

White House spokesman John Kirby said China should reject the Russian invasion: “The whole world should line up against what Putin is doing,” Kirby told CNN. This is not the time for any kind of business as usual with Mr. Putin.”

‘by your side’

In Kyiv, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, held talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky where she told him that Ukraine’s accession process to the European Union was on the right track.

“It’s impressive to see the speed, the determination, and the accuracy with which you go,” she said.

“We will never be able to match the sacrifice Ukrainians make when they lose their homes or cry for their loved ones… We will never be able to make up for what you do by fighting for democracy, for humanity, for respect for the rule of international law. But… you have European friends. By your side for as long as it takes.”

After a week of the fastest Ukrainian gains since the early weeks of the war, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces are now strengthening their defenses and it will be difficult for Kyiv’s forces to maintain the pace of their advance.

Putin has yet to publicly comment on the setback his forces suffered after Ukrainian forces made a rapid armored advance across the front line last week. Russian forces hastily abandoned dozens of tanks and other armored vehicles.

Kyiv says it has recovered more than 8,000 square kilometers (3,000 square miles), roughly the size of the island of Cyprus. The speed of progress raised Ukraine’s morale, satisfied Western backers who provided weapons, intelligence, and training, and raised hopes of further significant gains before winter hits.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region, said wresting control of his region from Russia, which it recognizes as an independent country controlled by separatists, will remain a fierce battle.

Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said in an online post: “We must avoid euphoria. There is still a lot of work to be done to liberate our territory, and Russia has a large number of weapons.”

There was no stopping Russia’s daily missile strikes on Ukraine, a day after it launched cruise missiles at a reservoir dam near Kryvyi Ri, President Zelensky’s hometown.

Authorities in the city of Kharkiv said that Russian shells hit a high-pressure gas pipeline, while a rescue operation was underway in the city of Bakhmut with four people suspected of being trapped under the rubble after the strike, Pavlo Kirilenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, said.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Thursday that Russian forces launched attacks on several settlements on the front line in Kharkiv in the past 24 hours.

But the British Ministry of Defense said in an update that Ukrainian forces continue to consolidate their control over the newly liberated territories in the region.

The United States on Thursday imposed new sanctions on 22 individuals and two entities that facilitated Russia’s war in Ukraine, the US Treasury said. Read more

Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned Washington to move with caution, saying that any decision to supply Kyiv with long-range missiles for US-made HIMARS systems would cross a “red line” and make the United States a “direct party to the conflict.” Read more

Ukraine’s fastest advance since Russian forces were expelled from the capital in March has changed the course of the six-month-old war

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch. Written by Andrew Osborne, Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Peter Graf and Frank Jack Daniel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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