During his visit, starting on Thursday, Putin will meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss “cooperation in various fields of bilateral relations … as well as international and regional issues of common concern,” according to the ministry, though specific details were not disclosed.

The Kremlin confirmed the visit, noting that Putin is attending at Xi’s invitation and highlighting that this will be Putin’s first foreign trip since beginning his fifth term in office.

China has politically supported Russia amid the Ukraine conflict, exporting machine tools, electronics, and other goods aiding the Russian war effort, though it has refrained from exporting weaponry. China also remains a crucial market for Russian energy exports, which bolster the Kremlin’s finances.

Despite projecting itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, China maintains a “no limits” relationship with Russia, opposing Western economic sanctions against Russia and participating in joint military drills.

The two nations, both large authoritarian states, increasingly oppose democracies and NATO while expanding their influence in Africa, the Middle East, and South America.

Putin’s visit coincides with the upcoming inauguration of William Lai Ching-te as Taiwan’s president, the self-governing island democracy that China claims and threatens to annex by force if necessary.

Recently, Xi Jinping returned from a five-day European tour, including visits to Hungary and Serbia, countries seen as close to Russia. This trip, Xi’s first to Europe in five years, aimed to bolster China’s influence and potentially create divisions between the EU and NATO, counterbalanced by China’s economic influence despite facing a housing crisis and slower economic growth.

Source: AP