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China’s defence minister to visit Russia, Belarus this week: ministry

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu visits Russia and Belarus amid flourishing Beijing-Moscow relations, joint naval exercises, and high-level exchanges.

China refrains from criticism over Russia’s Ukraine actions, emphasizes economic and military cooperation.



BEIJING, CHINA — Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu will visit Russia and Belarus this week, his ministry said on Monday, as relations between Beijing and Moscow flourish with high-level visits and phone calls.

Ties have remained warm in recent years, with China refusing to speak out against Russia’s widely condemned invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Li has refused to hold meetings with US counterparts until Washington lifts sanctions on him, imposed for his procurement of Russian military technology.

An aide to Vladimir Putin said last month the Russian president was planning to visit China in October, and in March President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Moscow and declared relations between the two countries were entering a new era.

China and Russia also held joint naval exercises in July as Li called for closer bilateral cooperation between the two navies.

Speaking from Beijing with Nikolai Yevmenov, head of the Russian navy, Li said he hoped both countries could “strengthen communication at all levels”, according to a readout from the Chinese defence ministry.

China and Russia are strategic allies, with both sides frequently touting their “no limits” partnership and economic and military cooperation.

Their ties became even closer after Russia began its military campaign in Ukraine in February last year and the Western economic sanctions that ensued.

Security conference

“At the invitation of Russian Defence Minister (Sergei) Shoigu and Belarusian Defence Minister (Viktor) Khrenin, from August 14 to 19, State Councillor and Defence Minister Li Shangfu will go to Russia to attend the 11th Moscow Conference on International Security and visit Belarus,” a Chinese defence ministry spokesperson said.

Li’s visit to Russia will include a speech at the international security forum, as well as meetings with leaders of defence departments from Russia and other countries, the spokesperson said.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week, hailing “practical cooperation” between the two countries.

Wang told Lavrov that Beijing and Moscow “should continue to maintain close strategic coordination, promote world multipolarisation and the democratisation of international relations”, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.

China has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict while maintaining close ties with strategic ally Russia.

Beijing has offered Putin diplomatic and financial support since Russian tanks rolled over the border into Ukraine but has refrained from overt military involvement or sending lethal arms.


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