Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing, China May 16, 2024. Sputnik/Sergei Guneev/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. Image Credit: via REUTERS

BEIJING: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he was “grateful” to Beijing for trying to find a solution to the war in Ukraine and hailed growing economic ties with China.

Putin was speaking at a press conference in Beijing alongside Chinese leader Xi Jinping, a day after he said his troops were advancing on “all fronts” in Ukraine.

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“I will inform the President of the People’s Republic of China about the situation surrounding the Ukraine crisis. We are grateful to our Chinese friends and colleagues for the initiatives they are putting forward to resolve this problem,” Putin said.

Moscow says it is open to talks with Ukraine to end the war, but insists that Kyiv must accept the situation on the ground — namely Russia’s claim to have annexed the Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

China positions itself as a neutral party in the conflict, which it has never condemned and in which it has sought to frame itself as a mediator.

In Beijing, Putin also appeared to criticise Western-led security alliances in the Asia-Pacific region - a point of mutual concern for both Moscow and Beijing.

He said “closed military-political alliances” in the region were “very harmful” and “counterproductive.”

China has become Russia’s most important political and economic partner since Moscow war in Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin on Thursday hailed those growing ties, despite what he implied were Western attempts to drive a wedge between the two countries.

He said the share of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan had exceeded 90 per cent.

“And it continues to grow, meaning mutual trade and investment is reliably protected from the influence of third countries,” the Russian leader added.

Friendship for generations

Meanwhile, Xi signalled to Putin that ties between the two nations remain strong.

Xi said his nation was “ready to work with Russia as a good neighbour, friend and partner with mutual trust,” state broadcaster China Central Television reported Thursday after the pair met in Beijing. China was prepared “to consolidate the friendship between the two peoples for generations to come,” Xi added.

Putin described the nations’ cooperation as “one of the main stabilizing factors in the international arena,” according to a video posted on a Kremlin social media account.

The two leaders’ comments underscore the close relationship that has developed between their nations in recent years. They declared a “no-limits friendship” just weeks before Putin launched his full-scale attacks on Ukraine, and have met more than 40 times since Xi came to power in 2012.

Speaking later Thursday while sitting beside Xi at a ceremony to sign agreements on deepening cooperation and issues such as media cooperation, Putin noted that 90% of trade was settled in yuan and rubles.

“This means we can say our trade and investments are effectively safeguarded from the influence of third countries,” he said, an apparent reference to the US and the dominant role of the greenback globally.

Putin added that Moscow and Beijing had agreed to step up banking ties and increase the use of national payment systems. Details of those agreements and the ones signed before cameras were not released.

Xi also took a veiled swipe at the US, saying that “unilateral hegemony, confrontation and power politics threaten global peace and all countries’ security.” He repeated his nation’s position on the war in Ukraine, saying that “a political solution to the Ukraine crisis is the correct direction.”