In this photo released by Chinese news agency Xinhua, Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, is joined by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko as he reviews an honor guard during a ceremony reception at Vnukovo-2 airport on Monday, March 20, 2023, on the outskirts of Moscow. (Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin was not waiting at the end of the red carpet to greet Chinese leader Xi Jinping when he arrived in Russia on Monday for a high-level visit.

But it was not a snub.

Russia’s standard protocol for visiting dignitaries requires that they be met at the airport by a lower-ranking cabinet official.

Many observers say the fighting in Ukraine has made Russia increasingly dependent on China for support at a time when the Kremlin is cut off from the West.

But Putin did not deviate from the established and the start of Xi’s visit was similar to that of any other leader who comes to Russia.

Putin sent Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernychenko to Vnukovo airport in the Russian capital to greet Xi after he got off his Boeing 747.

Meanwhile, the Russian president was away in central Moscow busy with other engagements ahead of his high-stakes dinner with Xi that evening.

Putin started his day by showing up at a meeting of top Interior Ministry officials. He also attended a parliamentary congress attended by legislators from African nations.

Back at the airport, Xi listened to a Russian military band play the Chinese and Russian national anthems. Then he reviewed a line of honorary guards accompanied by Chernychenko.

Although Putin didn’t break protocol and pamper Xi with a surprise airport appearance, the Russian president showered his Chinese guest with praise when he welcomed him inside the Kremlin for a private dinner.

Facing the Chinese president across a small table after they shook hands, Putin hailed what he called China’s “colossal leap forward” under Xi’s leadership, adding that he was a unenvious of a statement that generated a slight smile on his Chinese counterpart’s face. .

Xi responded in an equally courteous manner, saying he was sure Putin would receive strong support in next year’s election, although the Russian leader has yet to announce his intention to run.

They spent about 4.5 hours on a seven-course dinner, which included a Pacific seafood platter, sturgeon soup, quail, mushroom pancakes and roast venison with cherry sauce. Putin came out to accompany Xi and they shook hands again.

Before the meeting began, Putin called Xi’s visit an “exceptional event” in an article published in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, saying it offered a “great opportunity to meet my old good friend with whom we enjoy the warmest relationship. He wrote in detail about their first meeting in 2010, adding that he and Xi had met around 40 times. He also quoted a phrase from the Chinese philosopher Confucius: “Isn’t it a joy to have friends who come from afar?

Xi’s visit gives Putin a strong political boost just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of thousands of Ukrainian children.

Moscow, which does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, rejected the measure, considering it “legally null and void”, but it still represents additional pressure on the Russian leader.

After Monday’s private dinner, Putin and Xi will hold formal talks on Tuesday, which will also be attended by senior officials from both countries. Final statements are expected to be released later.

Some analysts say Western sanctions have forced Russia to become increasingly dependent on China.

“The relationship is increasingly asymmetrical; China has a much better advantage,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment who has long studied Moscow-Beijing relations.

Gabuev noted that Xi should maintain firm support for Putin amid growing Western pressure.

“The reality is that China sees absolutely no advantage in giving up Vladimir Putin, because there will be no incentive or gain in the relationship with the United States,” he said.

Although most observers say Beijing is unlikely to offer military assistance to Moscow, which the United States and other Western allies fear, the alliance with the Chinese government would allow the Russian president to continue his actions in Ukraine.

“It helps Russia stay defiant in the face of Western sanctions,” tweeted Chris Weafer, managing director and Russian economics analyst at consultancy Macro-Advisory. “As long as Russia can trade with China and other Asian states, it won’t risk running out of money or being forced to concede defeat on the battlefield.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, Monday, March 20, 2023, in Moscow, Russia.  (Sergei Karpukhin, Sputnik, Kremlin photo shared via AP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, Monday, March 20, 2023, in Moscow, Russia. (Sergei Karpukhin, Sputnik, Kremlin photo shared via AP)

Categorized in: