Wed, 05 Oct 2022

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he understands that China has "questions and concerns" about Moscow's military actions in Ukraine as he held talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan.

China has publicly adopted a neutral stance on Russia's seven-month invasion even as Xi has said that one of Beijing's core foreign policy principles is that countries should respect one another's borders.

In televised remarks at the start of their talks in Samarkand, Putin told Xi, "We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends regarding the Ukrainian crisis. We understand your questions and concerns on this matter, and during today's meeting, we will of course clarify all of these in detail."

Putin's remarks came as Ukraine in recent days has swiftly recaptured vast swaths of territory in the northeast region that Russia had claimed in the earliest weeks of the war, which Moscow continues to call a 'special military operation.'

Putin assailed what he characterized as the American-dominated "unipolar" world that he sees Russia and China jointly aligned against.

"We jointly stand for the formation of a just, democratic and multipolar world order based on international law and the central role of the U.N., and not on some rules that someone has come up with and is trying to impose on others, without even explaining what it's about," Putin said.

"In general, I must say that the attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken on an absolutely ugly shape and are absolutely unacceptable for the vast majority of states on the planet," he also said.

Beijing did not release any immediate comment on the talks, but a transcript of the opening remarks released by the Kremlin quoted Xi as saying, "We are ready, together with our Russian colleagues, to set an example of a responsible world power and play a leading role in bringing such a rapidly changing world onto a trajectory of sustainable and positive development."

The transcript did not include any comment by Xi about Ukraine or U.S.-led NATO, the West's key military alliance that has sent billions of dollars in armaments to Ukraine to help fend off the Russian invasion.

Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a global issues think tank in Washington, told VOA's Mandarin service, "China is not committed to support the Russian war in Ukraine. That will not change. But the China-Russia relations are so much broader than just the war in Ukraine, and China will advance those."

David Sacks, a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA that Putin's acknowledgement that China had "questions and concerns" about its invasion of Ukraine "is somewhat surprising because it shows that there could be a little bit of daylight between Russia and China, and it reveals that potentially China has aired some concerns privately about Russia's conduct in Ukraine."

Putin and Xi held talks on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security alliance that includes China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four Central Asian nations.

Putin also met Thursday with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country is planning to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Raisi said Moscow and Tehran are completing a major treaty that would bring their relations to a 'strategic level.'

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press.

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