World

Zelensky holds first war phone call with Jinping

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky says he has had a “long and mean­ingful” phone call with China’s Xi Jinping, their first contact since Russia’s war began.

He believed the call, along with the appointment of an ambassador to Beijing, would “give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations”.

China confirmed the call, adding that it “always stood on the side of peace”. Un­like the West, Beijing has sought to appear neutral on the Russian invasion.

But it has never hidden its close ties to Moscow, or condemned the invasion, and last month, President Jinping paid a two-day state visit to Russia.

He referred to President Vladimir Putin as his “dear friend”, and insisted that China stood on the right side of history. However, he made no commitment to providing Russia with weapons.

Within days of the visit, President Zel­ensky invited the Chinese leader to visit Kyiv for talks, noting they had contact before the full-scale war but nothing since it began in February 2022.

In a readout of Wednesday’s phone call, China quoted President Jinping as saying that China, “as a responsible majority country”, would “neither watch the fire from the other side, nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit”.

That statement appears to be a swipe at China’s biggest international rival, the US, which has provided the most help towards Ukraine’s response to the Russian war.

But the likelihood of China helping to end the war appears remote, not just because Russia has shown no readiness to withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s sover­eign territory – a key demand from Kyiv.

Critics have also questioned the idea of Beijing acting as a mediator, citing not only Mr Jinping’s firm friendship with Russia’s leader but also China’s soaring trade with Russia and its refusal even to speak of an “invasion”.

But President Zelensky has repeatedly reached out to the Chinese president, an acknowledgment that China’s vast wealth and global influence could swing the out­come of the war.—BBC

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