Russia’s Putin says he will soon meet with China President Xi as war in Ukraine drags on

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2023.

Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he will soon meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine drags on.

“Soon enough we will have some events and there will be a meeting with the Chinese President [Xi Jinping],” Putin said during a conference with students in Russia.

“He [Xi] calls me his friend, and I am happy to call him my friend, because this is a man who personally does a lot for the development of Russian-Chinese relations and cooperation in different areas,” Putin said.

Since Russia’s invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbor, Washington and its allies have imposed rounds of coordinated sanctions vaulting Russia past Iran and North Korea as the world’s most-sanctioned country.

White House officials have previously expressed deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia and the possibility that the world’s second-largest economy may aid Moscow as the Kremlin’s war heads into its 600th day.

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The last time the two leaders met was in March at the Kremlin. A month later, Xi spoke on the phone for the first time since Russia’s full-scale invasion with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Read more: China and Russia affirm economic cooperation for the next several years

Putin and Xi’s upcoming meeting also comes amid steady gains by Ukrainian forces on the battlefield.

The White House said Ukrainian forces have made “notable progress” in southern Zaporizhzhia in the last 72 hours.

“Now where they go from here and how they exploit that success, I’ll leave it to them to discuss, but we have seen some notable progress,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on a conference call.

Kirby declined to provide additional details, citing operational security risks.

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