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Xi Jinping to visit Putin and speak with Zelensky next week

Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning his first trip to Russia next week and his first talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky since the Moscow invasion.

Several sources familiar with the plans told Reuters it was an earlier-than-expected trip, in response to a long-standing invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

His plans to also hold a videoconference with Zelensky were reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment. The Kremlin said it still had nothing to announce. The office of the president of Ukraine was not immediately available for comment.

“As a rule, announcements of official visits abroad are coordinated synchronously by mutual agreement of the parties,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “When there is such a readiness, we will let you know.”

A visit by Xi to Russia would be a major event for Putin, who has portrayed the war in Ukraine as a conflict with the combined might of the West and has spoken frequently of his plans to welcome Xi in the coming months. Russia depends on China to buy oil and gas that it can no longer sell in Europe.

But if Xi’s visit coincides with a video meeting with Zelensky, it could deal an even bigger blow to Ukrainians, who want Beijing to remain neutral rather than bolster its support for Moscow. Zelensky asked Xi to speak with him.

China has refused to assign blame for the war while opposing Western sanctions against Russia. He submitted a proposal in February for a peace plan, met with skepticism in the West, but he praised Moscow and was cautiously received by Zelensky.

The United States has repeatedly said since last month that it believes China is considering arming Russia, which Beijing denies. Zelenskiy said that doing so would invite World War III, but also that he believed Beijing was aware of such risks, implying that he doubted it was likely.

China and Russia established a “no boundaries” partnership in February 2022, weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, and the two sides have repeatedly reaffirmed the strength of their ties in public.

China’s top diplomat visited Moscow in February during the war’s first anniversary week, when US President Joe Biden traveled to Kiev.

bakhmut battles

On the ground, both sides described relentless fighting in Bakhmut, a small, ruined town in eastern Ukraine that has become the main focus of a Russian winter campaign involving hundreds of thousands of newly minted reservists and mercenaries.

Kiev announced last week that it had decided to defend Bakhmut rather than withdraw. Russian forces led by Wagner’s private army captured the eastern part of the city, but have so far failed to encircle it.

“All enemy attempts to capture the city are repelled by artillery, tanks and other means of fire,” Ukraine’s Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the ground forces who swore not to withdraw, was quoted by Ukraine’s Military Media Center. Ukraine.

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Sunday the situation was “tough, very tough”.

“The closer we are to the city center, the tougher the fight. Ukrainians throw endless reservations, but we are moving forward and we will be moving forward,” Prigozhin said in comments reported by his press service.

He also said Russian soldiers were supplying their troops with truckloads of ammunition. He had previously complained that the best Russian soldiers were deliberately running their men short on ammunition, an allegation the Ministry of Defense rejected.

The months-long fight for Bakhmut became Europe’s bloodiest infantry battle since World War II, described as a meat grinder by both sides.

Moscow says taking it would be a huge success, paving the way to capturing the rest of the neighboring Donetsk region, a central objective of the war.

Kiev says it has decided not to withdraw, continuing the struggle to inflict losses on a Russian assault force it says is driven by Putin’s need to claim his only victory in more than half a year.

Following Ukrainian advances through the second half of 2022, Kiev has been focused on the defensive for the past three months, while Moscow has launched an offensive campaign using mobilized reservists and convicts recruited from prison as mercenaries.

Kiev has signaled plans for a counterattack later in the spring, when the muddy terrain dries up and hundreds of western armored vehicles and Challenger and Leopard main battle tanks arrive.

The tanks would have a big impact, said Leonid Khoda, commander of Ukraine’s 1st Tank Brigade which is fighting in the Donbas region, made up of Donetsk and Luhansk regions: “Everyone is waiting, the 1st Tank Brigade is also waiting.” Not long ago we sent people to learn how to operate (Leopard) 2A6,” he told Reuters.

Ukraine says the attrition of the Russian military now will help its counteroffensive later. But not all Western military analysts are convinced that Bakhmut is the best battleground on which to face the Russians, given the casualties on the Ukrainian side.

“The attrition rate in Bakhmut is worse than anywhere else,” said Rob Lee, a US defense expert who visited Bakhmut this month.

Source: CNN Brasil

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