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Xi Jinping could tell Vladimir Putin to stop his war on Ukraine. The Chinese President’s attempts to appear as a peacemaker between Russia and Ukraine have come under close scrutiny as he prepares to travel to Moscow to meet Putin. Former Russian correspondent Ian Williams insists that Xi will look to encourage Putin to end the war in Ukraine along with discussing Beijing’s broader interests with Russia.

Mr Williams told TimesRadio: “I think they have a very different vision of what [strategic cooperation] means, Russia will be pressing for more economic assistance, but crucially, for more technological and military assistance.

“China will present it very much as a peacekeeping mission going there in order to talk to Russia about their broader interests, and we will be told about trying to end the conflict, and Xi has said that once he’s been to Moscow, he will talk virtually to President [Volodymr] Zelensky.

“It’s hard to know what if anything will come from this because, in my view, China is somewhat discredited as a potential peacemaker, because it has effectively been underwriting Putin his war, both in terms of the enormously increased trade in hydrocarbons, fuel, duel use kit and other things which have got very close to that red line of providing arms and ammunition to Russia.

“So it will be watched very carefully, as indeed will the language with Russia playing up the strategic cooperation and China wanting to try and appear like a peacemaker, even though that is somewhat lacking in credibility.”

Xi plans to visit Moscow next week, a major boost for Russian President Vladimir Putin amid sharpening East-West tensions over the war in Ukraine and the latest sign of Beijing’s emboldened diplomatic ambitions.

Western leaders have tried to isolate Putin over the conflict, now in its 13th month. Xi’s trip, announced Friday, is a diplomatic shot in the arm to the Russian leader at a time when his troops are bogged down in a battle of attrition, focused now on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

The U.S. on Friday said it would oppose any effort by China at the meeting to propose a ceasefire in Ukraine as the “ratification of Russian conquest.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby encouraged Xi to reach out to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to get his country’s perspective on the war and to avoid any “one-sided” proposals.

China has sought to project itself as neutral in the conflict, even while it has refused to condemn Moscow’s aggression and declared last year that it had a “no-limits” friendship with Russia.

Beijing has denounced Western sanctions against Moscow, and accused NATO and the United States of provoking Putin’s military action.

Throughout the conflict, China has said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected. It remains unclear, however, whether it sympathizes with Moscow’s claims to seized Ukrainian territory.

Xi’s visit would mark his first meeting with Putin since September, when they met on the sidelines of a regional summit in Samarkand, Ubekistan.

Before that, Putin attended the opening of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games and met with Xi shortly before sending troops into Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Putin and Xi would have a one-on-one meeting over an informal dinner Monday. Broader talks involving officials from both countries are scheduled for Tuesday.

Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, suggested the talks could yield new approaches to the fighting in Ukraine.

Ushakov said: “I’m sure that our leader and the Chinese leader will exchange their assessments of the situation in the context of the development of the conflict in Ukraine. We shall see what ideas will emerge after that.”