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WORLD | 18-03-2022 21:33

Biden warns Xi against China backing Russia's war in Ukraine

Russian negotiator claims Moscow and Kyiv have brought their positions "as close as possible" on a proposal for Ukraine to become a neutral state.

US President Joe Biden laid out to Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday the "consequences" of any backing for Russia in its war against Ukraine, the White House said, as Beijing showed no sign of joining Western condemnation of the invasion.

The comments came during a nearly two-hour phone call between the leaders of the world's two largest economies, which touched on Ukraine, Taiwan and their own relationship.

Biden "described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians," the White House said in a statement.

The White House would not characterise the Chinese leader’s response to the warning.

Chinese state television CCTV reported that Xi said the war was "in no-one's interest" and that "state-to-state relations cannot go to the stage of military hostilities."

However, there was no direct criticism of the Kremlin and a readout from the Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Xi saying "all sides" need to support "dialogue" between Russia and Ukraine.

Xi also appeared to put some responsibility for Russia's invasion of its neighbour on the West, saying "the US and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine," the Foreign Ministry noted.

The Chinese leader has consistently refused to condemn his fellow authoritarian ally President Vladimir Putin.

Now, Washington fears Beijing could go as far as delivering financial and military support for Russia, transforming an already explosive transatlantic stand-off into a global dispute.

 

‘Neutral status’

Russia's top negotiator at talks with Ukraine said Friday that Moscow and Kyiv had brought their positions "as close as possible" on a proposal for Ukraine to become a neutral state.

The Kremlin on Wednesday said that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Sweden or Austria was being discussed at talks with Kyiv to end three weeks of a Russian military operation there. But Ukraine rejected the proposal, and said it wanted its security to be guaranteed by international forces.

"The topic of neutral status and Ukraine's non-accession to NATO is one of the key points of the talks, this is the point on which the parties brought their positions as close as possible," Russia's lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Friday, cited by Russian news agencies.

But he added that there were "nuances" when it came to "security guarantees" requested by Ukraine.

Russia, which has been conducting a military operation in Ukraine since February 24, has requested that its neighbour never join the Western NATO military alliance, as well as demanding its "demilitarisation" and "denazification."

Russian attacks on sites in Ukraine continued on Friday, with missiles striking an aircraft repair site close to Lviv's airport in Ukraine's far west, extending the war to a relatively unscathed region near the border with NATO member Poland.

No fatalities were reported in that strike, but early-morning strikes took lives across other Ukrainian cities.

Authorities in Kyiv said one person was killed when a Russian rocket struck residential tower blocks in the capital's northwestern suburbs. They said a school and playground were also hit.

Putin meanwhile held a triumphalist rally in Moscow despite signs that his ground offensive is flagging. The Kremlin leader received a hero's welcome from tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters in Moscow's Luzhniki football stadium, many wearing the "Z" sign that features on Russian tanks invading Ukraine.

Putin, commemorating eight years since he annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, said that invasion was justified to pull Crimea out of its "humiliating state." 

Today, he claimed, the much bigger invasion was "to rid these people from their suffering and genocide."

 

– TIMES/AFP

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