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China’s Xi Jinping and Putin hint more aggressive steps towards west

March 22: As Russia tightens ties with China, West offers $16 billion lifeline to Kyiv. Chinese President Xi Jinping was due to fly out of Moscow on Wednesday after a grandiose show of solidarity with Russian President Vladimir Putin against the West, but without offering direct support for Putin’s war in Ukraine.

During his two-day visit, Xi barely mentioned the Ukraine conflict, saying in closing remarks on Tuesday that China had a “non-partisan stance”. Xi Jinping also hinted more aggressive steps against west in near future in alliance with Russia.

Responding to the Xi-Putin meeting, the White House said China’s position was not impartial and called on Beijing to pressure Russia to withdraw from Ukraine’s sovereign territory to end Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.

As Xi prepared to leave Moscow, air raid sirens sounded over the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and in the north and east of Ukraine with reports of drone strikes but no major destruction.

Heralded by the Kremlin as a show of support for its most powerful friend, Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow featured carefully staged pomp and ceremony, but the spectacle was also marked by plenty of demonstrative bonhomie between the two autocrats.

Xi and Putin referred to each other as dear friends, promised economic cooperation and described their countries’ relations as the best they had ever been.

The joint statement included familiar accusations against the West – that Washington is undermining global stability and NATO is encroaching on the Asia-Pacific region – while asserting that the close partnership between China and Russia does not constitute a “military-political alliance”.

In Ukraine, Putin praised Xi Jinping for the peace plan he proposed last month and blamed Kiev and the West for rejecting it. The West sees China’s peace plan as a ploy to buy Putin time to regroup his forces and tighten his grip on the occupied country.

China’s 12-point plan has no concrete details on how to end a bloody year-long war that has left tens of thousands dead and forced millions to flee.

The West has sought to isolate Russia through global sanctions, and Putin faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court.

China has not supported any of the moves, and the West fears it may help arm Russia in its conflict, which Beijing has denied.

As Xi and Putin wrapped up talks on Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund announced a tentative agreement with Kiev on a four-year loan package of about $15.6 billion for the devastated country.

The money would help support Ukraine, which has suffered extensive damage to its infrastructure and economy during Russia’s year-long offensive.

In remarks after his summit with Xi Jinping, Putin condemned British plans to send tank munitions containing depleted uranium to Ukraine and warned of consequences.

“If all this happens, Russia will have to respond accordingly, given that the West is collectively already starting to use nuclear weapons,” Putin said, without elaborating.

A day earlier, British Defense Secretary Annabel Goldie said that some of the ammunition for the Challenger 2 battle tanks that Britain is sending to Ukraine contains armor-piercing rounds that contain depleted uranium.

Separately, the United States intends to expedite the delivery of 31 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine by the fall, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters.

Kiev has been clamoring for tanks and other sophisticated Western military equipment as the conflict has slowed to a war of attrition, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.

The Pentagon said the decision to send a variant of the tank that can run on diesel like most of Ukraine’s fleet allowed for faster delivery.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again called on Ukraine’s allies to provide more military aid, including ammunition, and to do so immediately.

“One of the issues that always gets the most attention is ammunition supplies, support from our partners. We expect increased supplies of exactly what we need — and we need it right now,” he said in a video on Tuesday.

European Union countries pledged on Monday to send 1 million artillery rounds over the next year to Ukraine, which is burning through them faster than its allies can supply them.

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On the ground, volleys of incoming and outgoing artillery fire could be heard in the town of Chasiv Yar west of Bakhmut, a small eastern town that has been at the center of intense fighting for months.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said the heaviest fighting continued near Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the south.

“Today, the number of Russian attacks increased sharply. There were about 120 in the main parts of the front line, which is about double the number of the previous day,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said on YouTube on Tuesday.

Between residential blocks in Chasiv Yar, mainly elderly residents queued for water and food delivered to them by a state emergency service team.

Oleksii Stepanov said he was in Bakhmut five days ago but was evacuated when a rocket destroyed his house.

“We were in the kitchen and a bullet went through the roof. Only the kitchen was left standing,” said the 54-year-old man.

Moscow launched a massive winter offensive using hundreds of thousands of newly drafted reservists and convicts recruited as mercenaries from prison.

Despite the bloodiest fighting of the war, described by both sides as a meat grinder, the front line barely moved for four months with the exception of Bakhmut, where Russian forces made gains in January and February. Ukraine decided this month not to withdraw its forces from the destroyed city.

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