China on Monday dismissed a report suggesting President Xi Jinping may have asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin not to invade Ukraine during the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
As tension escalates between Moscow and the West amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the attitude of Russia’s giant neighbour and close partner has come under scrutiny.
A report by Bloomberg, quoting an anonymous diplomat, said it was possible Xi had asked Putin during their recent call not to invade Ukraine during the Beijing Games.
During a phone call last month, Putin told Xi he would attend the Games opening ceremony on February 4 in a show of solidarity after the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia announced a diplomatic boycott over human rights in China.
Xi expressed support for his “old friend” Putin during the call in the face of sanctions the West threatens to impose if Russia invades Ukraine. China’s president called for “more joint actions to effectively safeguard security interests” while Putin hailed the bilateral ties as being “at an all-time high, reflecting a high level of strategic mutual trust”.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday the report was “sheer fiction”.
“This is not only smearing and provocation towards Sino-Russian ties, but also a deliberate attempt to interfere with and undermine the Games,” Zhao said.
Zhao said such efforts attempted to divide Beijing and Moscow.
“I wish to stress that Sino-Russian ties have become mature, stable and resilient nowadays. The two sides have maintained close communication on all levels,” he said.
“Any effort to drive a wedge between China and Russia or to undermine our mutual trust is bound to be futile.”