China’s president, Xi Jinping, has attempted to present his country as a neutral peace broker in the Ukraine war ahead of a state visit to Russia. Jinping praised the “new model of major-country relations” between Moscow and Beijing, which he claimed featured mutual trust, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. He also put China forward as a positive force for peace in Ukraine, citing China’s role in “constructively mitigating the spillovers of the crisis and facilitating its political settlement”. China has released a position paper on the Ukraine war, calling for a resumption of peace talks, an end to unilateral sanctions and stressing its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.
However, China’s claim to neutrality has been undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict of the conflict, refusing to call it an “invasion” and providing diplomatic and economic support to Moscow. Western officials have expressed concern that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, but this has been denied by Beijing. Putin confirmed China’s readiness to make its contribution to the settlement of the Ukraine crisis in a recent article reflecting on the deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing.
The latest figures for the disputed territories of Donetsk and Luhansk show that fighting continues, with over 60 civilians and 22 Ukrainian soldiers reported dead in the week up to 3 May. The Ukrainian authorities accuse Russia of delivering large quantities of new and sophisticated weapons across the border, allowing the separatists to hold their lines against Ukraine’s army. The evidence of dead Russian soldiers being transported back from Donetsk for burial in Russia is also strong, according to reports from the ground, backed up by a growing body of documentary evidence. On Friday, Nato’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of continuing to destabilise the Ukraine, aggressively challenging neighbours and investing massive sums in military modernisation. Nonetheless, while the lack of progress in the peace talks continues, the boycott of Russia and counter sanctions look set to continue also.