Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet next week in Uzbekistan, according to a Russian official. It will mark the first time the two leaders have spoken in person since the Ukraine war began in February.
Xi and Putin will meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, which will take place in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on Sept. 15-16, Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov told reporters.
Beijing remained silent on the event. When asked about the plan for Xi's potential trip, Mao Ning, the spokesperson of the regime's foreign ministry, said on Wednesday: "I have nothing to offer," according to The Associated Press.
The two schedules, if confirmed, would mark Xi's first trips outside the country in 32 months. The Chinese leader, who is expected to secure an unprecedented third term in office at the 20th Party Congress in October, hasn't stepped out of the country since the pandemic took hold. Beijing has implemented a strict "zero-COVID" policy, which has left nearly 300 million residents currently under some form of lockdown, according to estimates by Japanese financial services company Nomura.
Putin is among a handful of foreign leaders Xi has sat down with during the pandemic. In February this year, Putin traveled to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, an event that major Western countries refused to send any official delegation in protest against the regime's human rights violations against Uyghurs in the far-western Xinjiang region.
Burgeoning AllianceXi hasn't joined in international sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has consistently taken the position that international financial actions against Russia are invalid, thus providing Russia with a vital economic lifeline in Chinese markets.
Currently, the CCP continues to heavily censor talk of the war on social media within mainland China and refuses to refer to it as a war, parroting the Russian stance that it's a "special military operation."
The Kremlin, in return, has announced support for the CCP's claims on Taiwan and stated that it opposes international attempts to influence ongoing events in Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.
Before next week's potential meeting, Li Zhanshu, the CCP's third most important figure, is expected to meet with Putin on Wednesday. Li traveled to Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum.