Putin talks trade in Harbin


Meeting of minds: Putin (right) and Xi taking a walk in Beijing. — AFP

Russian leader Vladimir Putin was in the northeastern city of Harbin yesterday, the final day of a visit aiming to promote crucial trade with China and win greater support for his war effort in Ukraine.

Putin arrived on Thursday on his first trip abroad since his March re-election, meeting President Xi Jinping for talks in which the leaders framed their nations’ ties as a stabilising force in a chaotic world.

China and Russia’s strategic partnership has only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine, and Beijing has rebuffed Western claims that it is aiding Moscow’s war effort.

China has also offered a critical lifeline to Russia’s isolated economy, with trade booming since the invasion and hitting US$240bil in 2023, according to Chinese customs figures.

Putin’s trip to Harbin is part of efforts to enhance that economic relationship.

Lying just a few hundred kilometres from the border with Russia, the city has long served as a key hub for cross-border trade and cultural exchange.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a Russia-China trade expo yesterday, Putin hailed energy ties between the two countries and promised to “strengthen” them.

“Russia is ready and able to continuously power the Chinese economy, businesses, cities and towns with affordable and environmentally clean energy,” he said.

“As the world is on the threshold of the next technological revolution, we are determined to consistently deepen bilateral cooperation in the field of high technologies and innovations,” he added.

Moscow’s state news agency TASS reported Putin was accompanied by Han Zheng, China’s vice-president.

The Russian leader’s arrival came hours after he hailed his country’s troops for advancing on “all fronts” on the battlefield in Ukraine, following a major new ground assault.

In a statement to the media following talks with Putin on Thursday, Xi said the two sides agreed on the need for a “political solution” to resolving the war.

The two men later ditched their ties for a less formal meeting over tea at the palatial Zhongnanhai leadership compound. — AFP

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