Xi Jinping talks with Ukraine’s Zelenskiy for first time since Russia’s invasion

(CNN) President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky He spoke Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Moscow’s most important diplomatic partner, in the first phone call between the two leaders since the start of Russia’s invasion.

“I had a long and meaningful phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call and the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelensky said.

Andrii Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, described the phone call as “an important conversation” in a Telegram post on Wednesday.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV also reported the call, with Xi confirming that an envoy would travel to Ukraine and other countries to help hold “deep communication” with all parties for a political solution to the Ukrainian crisis.

At a briefing on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said its ambassador to Ukraine, Li Hui, will be the Chinese government’s special representative for Eurasian affairs. Li is a former Chinese ambassador to Russia, who served in the post from 2009 to 2019.

The ministry did not provide further details on when Li will travel and which countries he will visit.

Beijing has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion or publicly call for Russia to withdraw its troops. Its officials have repeatedly said that the “legitimate” security concerns of all countries must be taken into account, and have accused NATO and the United States of fomenting conflict.

Despite calls for neutrality and peace talks, Beijing provided diplomatic and economic support to Moscow throughout the invasion.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that Moscow had noted China’s willingness to facilitate talks with Ukraine following a phone call between Xi and Zelensky.

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“We note the readiness of the Chinese side to make efforts to establish a negotiation process,” Zakharova said at a press conference on Wednesday.

However, he said negotiations were not possible in the current situation and blamed Kyiv for rejecting Moscow’s initiatives.

Diplomatic consternation

Wednesday’s phone call marked the first time Zilenko spoke to him since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. Comparatively, Xi has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin five times since the invasion, including a face-to-face meeting at the Kremlin when the Chinese leader visited Moscow last month and another face-to-face meeting at a regional summit in Central Asia. September.

Reports of ongoing discussions between China and Ukraine to arrange an invitation for their leaders first surfaced ahead of Xi’s visit to Russia in March.

The efforts reported by analysts at the time were widely seen as part of China’s attempt to portray itself as a peacemaker in the conflict. He demanded neutrality.

But that call fell through weeks after Xi and Putin met in Moscow and confirmed their alignment on a range of issues, including their shared mistrust of the United States.

Following a trip to Beijing, European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen told reporters earlier this month that Xi reiterated his willingness to talk to Zelensky “when the conditions and time are right.”

Zi’s ​​Zelensky call came days after China’s top diplomat in Paris sparked anger in Europe by questioning the sovereignty of the former Soviet republics in comments that undermined China’s efforts to be seen as a potential mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

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Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Xie’s comments during a televised interview last weekend that the former Soviet states “have no effective status in international law” have caused diplomatic consternation, particularly in the Baltic states, with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia calling Chinese representatives for an explanation.

Officials including Ukraine, Moldova, France and the European Union all responded to Lu’s comments with criticism.

China later distanced itself from Lu’s comments, saying he was expressing personal opinion, not official policy.

CNN asked Chinese Foreign Ministry official Yu Jun if the timing of the Xi-Zelensky phone call had anything to do with the backlash. China has issued an official response to the comments made by the Chinese ambassador to France. “And I’m very clear on China’s position (on the Ukraine crisis).”

The publicly reported phone call between Xi and Zelensky was weeks before the invasion on January 4, 2022, during which the two leaders exchanged greetings to mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic bilateral ties.

Ulyana Pavlova contributed to this report.

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