President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia stated on Thursday that Moscow understood that China had “questions and considerations” in regards to the struggle in Ukraine — a notable, if cryptic, admission from Mr. Putin that Beijing could not absolutely approve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
And his Chinese language counterpart, Xi Jinping — in his first face-to-face assembly with Mr. Putin for the reason that invasion started — struck a much more subdued tone than the Russian president, and steered clear in his public feedback of any point out of Ukraine in any respect.
Taken collectively, the remarks had been a stark signal that Russia lacks the total backing of its strongest worldwide accomplice because it tries to recuperate from a humiliating rout in northeastern Ukraine final week.
The 2 authoritarian leaders met throughout a summit in Uzbekistan that was meant to sign the power of the connection between the nations at a time of accelerating animosity with the West and challenges to their agendas. The assembly was notably necessary to Mr. Putin, who has turn out to be extra remoted by america and its allies over his invasion of Ukraine.
“We extremely recognize the balanced place of our Chinese language associates in reference to the Ukrainian disaster,” Mr. Putin stated in televised remarks in the beginning of the assembly. “We perceive your questions and considerations on this regard. Throughout right this moment’s assembly, after all, we are going to clarify intimately our place on this situation, though now we have spoken about this earlier than.”
Whereas Chinese language officers have provided some lip service in latest months to Russia’s message that the struggle in Ukraine was the West’s fault, Mr. Xi didn’t repeat any of these strains in his televised feedback. He rigorously averted providing any endorsement of particular Russian insurance policies, as an alternative providing generalities about China’s and Russia’s view of the world.
After the assembly, China launched an announcement saying that it was “able to work with Russia in extending sturdy help to one another on points regarding their respective core pursuits.”
It was a strikingly totally different tone from Mr. Xi than in early February, earlier than the invasion. The 2 nations issued a joint assertion earlier than the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Beijing describing their partnership as having “no limits.”
The lukewarm Chinese language help leaves Mr. Putin in an more and more troublesome spot because the invasion approaches the seven-month mark and he faces growing criticism inside Russia about how he’s conducting the struggle.
Sergey Radchenko, a professor on the Johns Hopkins Faculty of Superior Worldwide Research, stated Mr. Putin “has severely undercut his leverage with China” by reducing himself off from the West.
“He has nowhere else to show however to China,” Mr. Radchenko stated. “And the Chinese language are finest at taking care of their very own pursuits.”
In distinction with Mr. Xi’s circumspect remarks, Mr. Putin railed in opposition to the “unipolar,” American-led world order that he sees Beijing and Moscow aligned in opposition to.
“We collectively stand for the formation of a simply, democratic and multipolar world order primarily based on worldwide regulation and the central position of the U.N., and never on some guidelines that somebody has provide you with and is attempting to impose on others, with out even explaining what it’s about,” Mr. Putin informed Mr. Xi.
Requested in regards to the summit assembly at a information convention on Thursday, a State Division spokesman, Ned Value, stated it was “not stunning” that China had considerations in regards to the struggle.
“It’s considerably curious,” Mr. Value added, “that President Putin could be the one to confess it.”
China has been an important commerce accomplice for Russia within the months for the reason that invasion started and Western nations turned their backs. China has elevated its exports of some items to Russia, and it purchased document ranges of Russian oil in Could, June and July.
However China has completed little to assist circumvent Western sanctions that forestall Russia from importing superior Western expertise. It additionally seems to have refrained thus far this yr from delivery weapons to Russia, forcing Moscow to ask Iran and North Korea for navy tools.
Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi met on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Group, a multilateral, security-focused group that features China, Russia, India, Pakistan and 4 Central Asian nations. For Mr. Xi, the gathering was an opportunity to renew his position as a world statesman. It was his first journey overseas since he went to Myanmar in January 2020.
Edward Wong contributed reporting.