Vladimir Putin has stated that he will discuss Xi Jinping’s 12-point plan to “resolve the acute crisis in Ukraine” during the Chinese president’s highly anticipated visit to Moscow.
“We’re always open to a negotiation process,” Mr Putin said as the leaders exchanged “dear friend” greetings.
Last month, China released a plan to end the war, which includes “ceasing hostilities” and resuming peace talks.
But on Friday the US warned the peace plan could be a “stalling tactic”.
“The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
What assistance does China provide to Russia?
What Xi and Putin hope to gain from their meeting in Moscow
China’s plan made no mention of Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine, which Ukraine has insisted is a prerequisite for any talks.
Instead, it talked of “respecting the sovereignty of all countries”, adding that “all parties must stay rational and exercise restraint” and “gradually de-escalate the situation”.
The plan also condemned the use of “unilateral sanctions,” which was interpreted as a veiled criticism of Ukraine’s Western allies.
On Monday, a military band welcomed Mr. Xi to Moscow. Mr Putin hailed China for “observing the principles of justice” and pushing for “undivided security for every country”.
In response, Xi told Putin: “Russia has made great strides in its prosperous development under your strong leadership. I am confident that the Russian people will continue to back you up.”
Before Mr. Xi arrived, Mr. Putin wrote in China’s People’s Daily that “aggressive” US policy would not weaken the two countries.
Ukrainian leaders have publicly emphasized their shared values with China, such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
They have, however, privately lobbied for a meeting – or phone call – between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Mr Xi.
The fear in Kyiv is that China’s support for Russia – currently based around technology and trade – might become military, potentially including artillery shells.
“If China moves to openly supply weapons to Russia, it will effectively be taking sides on the side of the aggressor,” said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council.
According to Yu Jie, a research fellow on China at Chatham House, it was in Beijing’s best interests to normalize relations with Russia, with whom it shares a 4,300km (2,700 mile) border.
Russia provides oil to Beijing’s massive economy and is viewed as a partner in opposing the US.
Ms Yu went on to say that Mr Xi had just won a diplomatic victory by mediating the resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
This could be an opportunity for him to investigate the possibility of mediating between Russia and Ukraine.
Mr. Xi will be served a seven-course meal that includes nelma fish from the Pechora River in northern Russia, a traditional Russian seafood soup, and quail pancakes – all accompanied by Russian wine.
Dmitry Peskov, the presidential spokesperson, has stated that a “detailed explanation” of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine will be provided over dinner. Tomorrow, the main day of the visit, Russian and Chinese delegations will meet.
Their meeting comes just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges.
This means that Mr Putin could be detained in 123 countries, though neither China nor Russia are on that list.
Mr Blinken believes China feels “no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable” for atrocities in Ukraine by traveling to Moscow so soon after the ICC’s announcement.
Western leaders have been attempting to isolate Russia since last February, following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
However, they have been unable to reach a global consensus, with China, India, and several African countries hesitant to condemn Mr Putin.