Vladimir Putin has lavished praise on Xi Jinping in a probable attempt to ingratiate himself with China’s leader and win more backing for his war on Ukraine. During the course of their end-of-year video conference call, the pair discussed what they acknowledged to be a “difficult international situation” – without mentioning the war directly.
Putin was effusive in his praise for his Chinese counterpart, whom he addressed as a “respected chairman” and “dear friend”.
He also stressed the Kremlin’s wish to “strengthen the cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and China”.
He explained: “In the face of increasing geopolitical tensions, the significance of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is growing as a stabilising factor.
“I have no doubt that we will find an opportunity to meet in person. We are waiting for you, dear chairman, dear friend, next spring with a state visit to Moscow.”
Putin insisted military cooperation has a “special place” in the relationship between their countries, saying the Kremlin aimed to “strengthen the cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and China”.
Xi replied that “in the face of a difficult and far from straightforward international situation,” Beijing was ready “to increase strategic cooperation with Russia, provide each other with development opportunities, be global partners for the benefit of the peoples of our countries and in the interests of stability around the world”.
Sino-Russian links have been strengthened since Putin launched his invasion on Ukraine, and Xi has been critical of Western sanctions imposed as a result.
Moscow has backed China in the face of mounting tensions over Taiwan, and has also become of Beijing’s principal oil suppliers.
Russia and Beijing held joint naval drills in the East China Sea last week.
JUST IN: Ukraine tipped to recover all lost land in blow for Putin
After the first waves of missiles, Russian forces then attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed-131/136 drones, all of which were shot down, the Ukrainian air force said.
Some were aimed at Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Friday. Of seven exploding drones launched against the Ukrainian capital, two were shot down on the approach to the city and five over Kyiv itself, he stressed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address that Russia had not abandoned plans to capture all of Donetsk, aiming to accomplish the goal by New Year’s Day.
Mr Zelensky also warned Ukrainians there could be another widespread air assault, adding: “No matter what they plan, we know one thing about ourselves: we will survive. We will.
“We will drive them out. No doubt about it. And they will be punished for this terrible war.”