China’s Xi to Visit Putin Under Shadow of War-Crimes Warrant

China’s Xi to Visit Putin Under Shadow of War-Crimes Warrant

Global divisions over Russia’s war in Ukraine hardened on Friday with the announcement that China’s Supreme Leader Xi Jinping would meet in person with President Vladimir V Putin in Russia next week — in the shadow of an ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin accused of war crimes.

Mr. Xi’s visit was presented by China as a personal diplomatic mission to contribute to peace between Russia and Ukraine. But it is widely seen by Western officials as the most overt sign of China’s support for Mr Putin yet, and that Mr Xi is increasingly determined to challenge the idea of ​​a US-led global order by putting other countries in closer orbit brings China.

Even with a seemingly strengthening lifeline from China, Russia appeared more isolated than ever on Friday. Its neighbor Finland has cleared a hurdle to join NATO. European allies maneuvered to get Ukrainian fighter jets. And most dramatically, the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused Mr. Putin of war crimes and placed him alongside a handful of other national leaders, including Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor, to face such charges.

In issuing his arrest warrant, the court stated that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children.

Russia did not sign the 2002 treaty that established the authority of the International Criminal Court, and its foreign ministry has denied the war crimes allegations, as it has done since the invasion began. Maria Zakharova, a ministry spokeswoman, said Russia will not cooperate with the court and that its decisions “have no meaning for our country, even from a legal point of view.”

There was no immediate response to the ICC from China, which is also not a party and has resisted Western calls to further isolate Russia.

Mr Xi’s three-day visit to Moscow was due to begin on Monday as Beijing seeks to use its power in global affairs and oust American influence in world capitals. The diplomatic trip is set to come just a week after two steadfast rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, announced a rapprochement made possible through China’s mediation – which stunned many diplomats in the United States and Europe.

China has already proposed a peace settlement for the war in Ukraine, but many American and European officials are skeptical, noting that important issues like the withdrawal of Russian troops are not addressed.

“A truce is now again effectively the ratification of Russian conquest,” John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters Friday. “It would effectively recognize the achievements of Russia and its attempt to seize its neighbor’s territory by force, and allow Russian troops to continue occupying sovereign Ukrainian territory.”

Mr Kirby also expressed doubts that Mr Xi’s meeting next week in Russia represents a genuine peacemaking effort, and reiterated concerns that China was weighing whether to supply Russia with weapons for use in the war.

It is not clear if Mr Xi intends to speak separately with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has spent much of the last year on a diplomatic rush to demand support. Mr Kirby said it was “very important” for Mr Xi to hear from Ukraine, “and not just from Mr Putin and not just from a Russian perspective”.

Although a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, said that Mr Xi’s visit was intended to “promote peace and encourage talks,” both Beijing and Moscow described the meeting as an opportunity to deepen ties.

The Kremlin said the talks would focus on “comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation.” China’s foreign ministry said Mr Xi will use the visit to boost “mutual trust and understanding” between Russia and China, which he says has “created a new paradigm for international relations.”

This push for a “new paradigm” appears to be at the heart of Mr Xi’s diplomatic foray in recent months, as he has attempted to project an image as a global statesman who works with all comers, regardless of how they came to power came or how they think it. Most prominently, Mr. Xi has recently courted leaders whose ties with the United States are strained or who are openly at odds with it.

He met President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus in March, and before that President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran, and greeted the Iranian leader, who has been supplying Russia with drones, with a 21-gun salute in Tiananmen Square.

And on his visit to Saudi Arabia, he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, who embraced him with a splendor in stark contrast to the prince’s earlier meeting with President Biden, the Saudi Arabia had referred to as a “pariah” because of his rights to record.

In his third term as president, Mr. Xi has taken a tougher stance against what he describes as an American effort to block China’s rise. To counteract this, he has urged Chinese industry to reduce its reliance on Western technology, touted China’s growth as proof that it does not need Western politics, and portrayed China as a nation under siege – much like Putin did in speeches to Russians has.

“Western countries, led by the United States, have implemented comprehensive containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to our country’s development,” Mr. Xi said in a speech this month, according to the official Chinese news agency .

As China drew closer to Russia, European nations did the same around NATO and Ukraine. Turkey announced on Friday that it would ratify Finland’s bid to join NATO, removing a significant hurdle for the country to join the alliance, though Sweden’s bid remains stalled.

And Slovakia’s government said it will send 13 Soviet-designed MiG fighter jets to Ukraine, a day after the Polish president made a similar announcement. Ukraine has been pleading for fighter jets for months, just as it has urged NATO members to send it advanced missile systems, air defenses and, most recently, tanks – and is slowly receiving many of the weapons it has requested.

But that did not come without intense bickering among allies, and on Friday German officials said Poland must make sure none of the MiG jets it now plans to send to Ukraine are among those Berlin sold to Warsaw in 2003.

The Biden administration has so far refused to send F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine has requested, but has indicated weapons could continue to enter the battlefield from other nations.

Ukraine has welcomed the aid, although it has also maintained its calls for more advanced weapons that could be used to greater effect. Most of Slovakia’s MiG-29 fighter jets, for example, are non-functional, meaning that while they could provide spare parts for Ukraine’s own fleet of Soviet-era jets, Ukrainian officials believe they are unlikely to change the balance of power on the battlefield .

David Pierson, Valerie Hopkins, Lara Jakes, Marc Santora, Michael D. Shear, Vivian Nereim and Keith Bradsher contributed coverage.