BEIJING: President Xi Jinping will be in Russia on Monday, hoping to deliver a breakthrough on Ukraine, as China seeks to position itself as a peacemaker.
Xi is pushing a greater role for China on the global stage, and was key in mediating a surprise rapprochement between Middle Eastern rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia this month.
Rumours that Xi may hold his first call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the outbreak of war have raised hopes in Western capitals that Xi may lean on his old friend Putin to stop his bloody invasion during the three-day state visit.
China can say that it is a trusted friend of Ukraine and Russia and can say that it is a trusted friend of both sides. I think this is very important. Beijing, a major Russian ally, has always tried to portray itself as a neutral party to the conflict.
But it has refused to condemn Russia's invasion and has sharply criticised Washington's support for Kyiv, leading Western leaders to accuse Beijing of providing diplomatic cover for Russia to bludgeon its European neighbour.
Beijing has done remarkably little to encourage peace in Ukraine, since any credible effort would require pressuring Russia or at least calling Russia out directly, said Elizabeth Wishnick, professor and Chinese foreign policy expert at Montclair State University in the United States.
Xi's trip came after the International Criminal Court announced an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges aims to show whatever support he can provide, short of aid that would result in sanctions, she told AFP.