Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin forge bonds amid US tensions

Moscow: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin praised their countries’ ties during a meeting in the Kremlin on Wednesday, as Beijing and Moscow seek to shore up cooperation amid tensions with the US.

Putin said the visit was a “key event” in relations between the two neighbours.

“Our relationship will be better and better,” said Xi, who was received with full honours when he arrived at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport in the afternoon.

The trip comes five years after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula led to a serious rift with its Western partners and subsequent turn toward its neighbour to the east.

“In recent years, thanks to your direct participation, the relationship between Russia and China has reached an unprecedentedly high level,” the Russian president said. Following the talks and a visit to the Bolshoi Theatre late Wednesday, Xi is set to travel to Russia’s former imperial capital Saint Petersburg. There he will attend an economic forum hosted by Putin on Thursday and Friday.

China and Russia “have strong political mutual trust, and support each other firmly on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns,” Xi said during an interview with Russian media ahead of the visit.

Putin’s foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, earlier said Xi and Putin would sign a new declaration on their “global partnership and strategic cooperation, which are entering a new era”.

The Chinese delegation brought two pandas as gifts, bound for the Moscow Zoo. “The animal is a symbol of China and the gesture is very important to our partners,” Ushakov said.

The partnership is yielding increasing trade, which has increased by 25 percent in 2018 to hit a record $108 billion (96 billion euros, he added, calling China “Russia’s most important economic partner”.