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Putin hails ‘model’ Russia-China relations in Xi call

Moscow: President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hailed Russia’s “model” relations with China in a call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and confirmed he would attend Beijing’s Olympics, as both countries face increasing criticism from the West.

The video call came days after G7 foreign ministers discussed Moscow’s sabre-rattling against Ukraine and Beijing’s crackdowns “In February we will finally be able to meet in person in Beijing,” Putin said in a national television broadcast of the conversation after he said he would attend the Games, calling Xi his “dear friend”.

“China-Russia relations have withstood all kinds of stern tests, and are showing new dynamism and vitality,” Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported Xi as saying. Russian officials including Putin are banned from attending international competitions unless invited by the head of state of the host country. Xi has invited Putin to attend.

Both China and Russia have seen their relationship with Western nations deteriorate in recent years and have sought to project a more unified front. On Wednesday, Putin told Xi that “a new model of cooperation has been formed between our countries” that includes a “determination to turn our common border into a belt of eternal peace and good-neighbourliness”.

“I consider these relations to be a real model for inter-state cooperation in the 21st century,” the Russian leader said. After the call, the Kremlin’s top foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov said that the conversation between “two great friendly states” had lasted 90 minutes and was “very positive”.

“Both stated that the relationship had reached an unprecedented high level,” he told reporters. The talks came after both Russia and China were pointedly left out of US President Joe Biden’s democracy summit last week.

The US and its allies have for weeks accused Russia of planning an invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine, warning of massive coordinated sanctions should Putin launch an attack. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are stationed near Ukraine, where the West has accused the Kremlin of backing pro-Moscow separatists since 2014.

Russia rejects the allegations and blames the West for stoking tensions. In calls on Tuesday with the leaders of France and Finland, Putin said he wanted security talks with the United States and Nato to begin without delay.

Russia’s demands included stopping Nato from expanding east and the deployment of weapons in neighbouring states, including Ukraine. China responded with fury to being left out of the Biden summit, branding US democracy a “weapon of mass destruction”. Beijing’s diplomats overseas ramped up its blitz criticising Western democracy as corrupt and a failure. Instead, they touted “whole-process people’s democracy”, aiming to shore up legitimacy for the ruling Communist Party.

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