Russian PM to visit Beijing as China renews criticism of Western arms sales to Ukraine

FILE - Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin attends his meeting with Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Japarov during the 78th anniversary of the end of World War II celebrations in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2023. Mishustin will visit Beijing next week for talks, China's Foreign Ministry said Friday, May 19, 2023, marking the latest exchange in a relationship in which Russia is becoming increasingly reliant on China for economic and diplomatic support. (Dmitry Astakhov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File) (Dmitry Astakhov)

BEIJING – Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin will visit Beijing next week for talks, China's Foreign Ministry said Friday, marking the latest exchange in a relationship in which Russia is becoming increasingly reliant on China for economic and diplomatic support.

“During the visit, the two sides will have an in-depth exchange of views on practical cooperation in bilateral relations and issues of common concern,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing.

“We look forward to further strengthening cooperation between the two sides, deepening people-to-people and local exchanges (and) injecting strong momentum into the recovery of the world economy,” Wang added.

Mishustin's visit is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, China’s Deputy Permanent U.N. Representative Geng Shuang again criticized Western arms sales to Ukraine, saying it would only lead to escalation, more civilian casualties and displacement, and make it harder to obtain a ceasefire and start peace negotiations.

China says it does not and will not provide arms to either side in the Ukraine conflict, a point Geng reiterated at a Security Council meeting Thursday.

“The constant feeding of weapons to the battlefield will ... also pose serious challenges to post-war reconstruction and, if such weapons are diverted to terrorists or armed groups, likely cause new turmoil in a wider geographic area,” Geng was cited as saying on the U.N.’s website.

“All parties should promote a political settlement with sincerity and urgency and create conditions conducive to a ceasefire,” Geng added.

China says it is a neutral party and wants to help broker an end to the 15-month-old conflict, but has refused to criticize the invasion and blamed the West for provoking Moscow.

China is now seen as the senior partner in the relationship, helping Moscow deflect condemnation at the United Nations and maintaining what it calls “normal trade” with Russia, providing a market for Russian oil and other resources and selling the country needed manufactured goods.

At the same time, Beijing is making inroads into what has traditionally been Russia's strategic backyard, this week hosting a summit of five former Soviet Central Asian republics.

China's special envoy met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other government officials during talks in Kyiv earlier this week. The visit followed a phone call last month between the Ukrainian leader and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that Zelenskyy described as “long and meaningful” and which marked the first known contact between the two since the Russian invasion began.

Beijing released a peace plan in February but Ukraine’s allies largely dismissed it, insisting that Russian President Vladimir Putin must withdraw his forces. Zelenskyy’s own 10-point peace plan includes a tribunal to prosecute war crimes committed by Russia.