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China's Xi reasserts support for Russia on security issues



Chinese President Xi Jinping reasserted his country's support for Russia on issues of sovereignty and security in a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, state media said.

Xi told Putin that "all parties should responsibly push for a proper settlement of the Ukraine crisis," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The Kremlin said in its account of the call that Putin "outlined his fundamental assessments of the situation in Ukraine."

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Xi "noted the legitimacy of the actions taken by Russia to protect the fundamental national interests in the face of challenges to its security created by external forces," according to Moscow's official readout.

China has refused to criticise Russia's invasion of Ukraine or even to refer to it in such terms, while accusing NATO and the West of provoking Moscow into attacking.

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Weeks before the Russian attack, Putin and Xi met in Beijing in February and oversaw the signing of an agreement pledging that relations between the sides would have "no limits."

It remains unclear whether Xi knew at the time of Russia's plan to invade Ukraine.

An explosion tears a hole in the side of an apartment building after a Russian tank fired a rocket in Mariupol, Ukraine.

In that meeting, the two leaders pushed back against US pressure, declaring their opposition to any expansion of NATO and affirming that the island of Taiwan is a part of China, as they met hours before the Winter Olympics kicked off in Beijing.

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Xi told Putin on Wednesday that China "is willing to work with the Russian side to promote the steady and long-term development of bilateral pragmatic cooperation," Xinhua reported, "China is willing to, together with Russia, continue to support each other on issues concerning core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security."

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While offering its tacit support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China has sought to appear neutral and avoid possible repercussions from supporting the Russian economy amid international sanctions.

Moscow and Beijing have increasingly aligned their foreign policies to oppose liberal democratic forces in Asia, Europe and beyond, making a stand for authoritarian rule with tight borders and little regard for free speech, minority rights or opposition politics.

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