BEIJING (Agencies): Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have pledged to deepen their strategic partnership, demonstrating their growing alignment as Russia continues its military operations in Ukraine.

Putin, whose delegation includes top defense and security officials, was welcomed by Xi at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People with full military pageantry, marking the start of Putin’s two-day state visit. This visit is Putin’s first overseas trip since beginning a new term as Russia’s president last week, signaling a tightening of relations as the two countries face increasing friction with the West.

Xi praised the deepening ties between the two nations, which were formalized in a joint statement signed by the leaders. He stated that these ties would “inject strong momentum” into the development of their relations.

During their meetings, Xi stated that China-Russian relations have “stood the test of a changing international landscape” and have made “positive contributions to maintaining global strategic stability,” according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry.

Putin, whose country’s economy has become increasingly reliant on China since his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, praised the countries’ “practical cooperation” in meetings with Xi. He noted their record bilateral trade last year and emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation in energy, industry, and agriculture.

This meeting marks the fourth face-to-face discussion between Putin and Xi since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, just weeks after the two declared a “no limits” partnership on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

This week’s state visit comes amid growing international concern about the direction of the war in Ukraine, delays in aid for Kyiv, and Russia’s economy and defense complex remaining resilient in the face of Western sanctions. U.S. officials have alleged that this situation is linked to Chinese support, a claim that Beijing denies.

Putin has stated that he and Xi will discuss the war in Ukraine in informal talks later on Thursday evening. These talks are expected to include Russia’s newly appointed Defense Minister Andrey Belousov and his predecessor Sergei Shoigu, who is now secretary of Russia’s Security Council.

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