Vladimir Putin says Xi Jinping has questions about invasion of Ukraine

He said both Mr Putin and himself advocated a “fairer and more equitable international order”, in a veiled critique of Western hegemony.

The Russian leader said Moscow condemned “provocation of the United States and its allies in the Taiwan Strait”, words of encouragement for Mr Xi who is seeking to “reunify” Taiwan with mainland China.

China never publicly backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nor has it condemned it. But Mr Xi and Mr Putin did say they had a friendship with “no limits” the last time they met in Beijing just before the invasion.

Beijing has since then criticised the West for imposing crippling financial sanctions on Russia. Chinese companies, however, have been extra careful dealing with Russia so that they would not face penalties for breaking the sanctions.

China watchers noted that Mr Xi despite the Russian leader’s remarks made sure he did not publicly cross Mr Putin on the war in Ukraine.

“Xi had to calibrate his remarks and show he’s the master of fence-sitting: He wasn’t critical or said anything negative in public,” Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Telegraph.

The Putin-Xi meeting was part of the summit of the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that brought together strongmen leaders such as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India.

As Moscow was seeking support from Beijing, Washington was poised to announce on Thursday night a $600 million (£523 million) arms package for Kyiv. 

White House sources said it would include more high-precision missiles as well as howitzer ammunition. It adds to $15.1 billion of security assistance already delivered by the United States.

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