In an article on Tuesday, Politico reported that besides the desire for Chinese investment, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is seeking to maintain lucrative trade relations with the Asian economic powerhouse, and is eyeing Beijing as a potential mediator in the conflict with Russia.
The media outlet quoted Aleksandr Merezhko, the head of the Ukrainian parliament’s foreign policy committee, as explaining: “There is fear that if we start criticizing China more harshly, Beijing will use it as an excuse to strengthen its aid to Russia, and even start providing military aid.”
Beijing has consistently rejected claims that it intends to offer lethal aid to Moscow, and has accused Washington of “spreading false information” by alleging that China is weighing up weapons deliveries.
Last month, China put forward its own peace proposal on the first anniversary of the conflict in Ukraine.
Politico noted that Zelensky reacted to Beijing’s 12-point plan by saying that his country “can work on it with China.” This response was in marked contrast to the way Ukraine’s Western backers dismissed the proposal out of hand, according to the media outlet.
Merezhko argued that Zelensky’s current strategy toward Beijing is prudent, though he holds out “little hope of real help from China.”
At present, relations between Kiev and Beijing have reached crisis point, the official told Politico. Merezhko cited China’s consistent refusal to distance itself from Russia, as well as the fact that Ukraine “has clearly chosen the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.” This effectively pits Kiev against Beijing, Merezhko argued.
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow. Xi is making his first visit to Russia since the Kremlin launched its military campaign against Ukraine in February of last year.
The two leaders described each other as “friends” and discussed a range of key global issues and bilateral relations, with talks due to continue on Tuesday.
While China has stopped short of openly supporting Russia’s actions in Ukraine, it has not joined the West in condemning the military campaign and imposing sanctions on Moscow. Beijing criticized Russia for sending troops into Ukraine, but also blamed the US and NATO’s expansion in Europe for triggering the crisis.