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Xi Jinping cannot be seen as an “honest broker” between Russia and the West, and will certainly not be seen as one by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, a UK-based expert has warned. Professor Steve Tsang was speaking on the day Xi began his three-day trip to Moscow, with no official comment from Beijing about what he was hoping to accomplish. Footage showed the Chinese President disembarking from Moscow and being whisked away by motorcade for meetings with Putin at the Kremlin.

China’s foreign ministry earlier set the tone by calling on the ICC to “respect the jurisdictional immunity” of a head of state and “avoid politicisation and double standards”, after the court issued a warrant for Vladimir Putin’s arrest over allegations of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

Prof Tsang, who is Director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, told “Xi is partisan in supporting , which makes him less than an honest broker.

“My take is a simple one. Xi’s policy remains essential the same as before, which is to declare neutrality, support Putin and avoid paying a price over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Xi would use his state visit to reaffirm that support “though not without limits”, Prof Tsang explained.

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“I doubt that he really understands the feelings of the government and people of Ukraine.”

China and Russia have described Xi’s trip as part of efforts to further deepen their “no-limits friendship.”

The Kremlin has welcomed China’s peace plan for Ukraine and said it would be discussed talks between that will begin over dinner on Monday.

Beijing has called for a ceasefire, but Washington strongly rejected the idea as the effective ratification of the Kremlin’s battlefield gains.

China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy and as a partner in opposing what both see as American domination of global affairs.

Downing Street today said Xi should use his visit to Moscow to urge Vladimir Putin to halt its bombings and other “atrocities” in Ukraine.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “China has spoken previously about the importance of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity in Ukraine.

“We would like to see President Xi advocate for this point when he speaks to Putin.

“This war and its assault on Ukraine‘s sovereignty could end today if Russia withdrew its troops from Ukraine.

“So we hope President Xi uses this opportunity to press President Putin to cease bombing Ukrainian cities, hospitals, schools, and to halt some of these atrocities that we are seeing on a daily basis.”