Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine during a phone call Wednesday, the two sides said.
The two leaders had a “long and meaningful” phone call during which they discussed the war, Zelenskyy said, while China’s Foreign Ministry said it wanted to serve as a productive mediator in the conflict. Beijing said it plans to send a diplomatic envoy to Kyiv in the future to help facilitate the peace process between Ukraine and Russia.
I had a long and meaningful phone call with 🇨🇳 President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) April 26, 2023
Earlier this year, China said it wants to play a bigger role in peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, which thus far have been nonexistent. Western officials have expressed skepticism about Beijing’s motives, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has refused to clearly condemn Russia’s invasion and has served as a key diplomatic and economic ally for Moscow. The CCP also put out a peace plan earlier this year that was highly deferential to Russian interests and was deemed a non-starter by some in Kyiv.
More recently, China vowed not to send lethal weaponry to Russia after the Biden administration had warned that the CCP may be considering doing so. (RELATED: Biden Admin Announces 36th Military Aid Package For Ukraine)
The timing of Xi’s visit is notable, after China’s Ambassador to France stirred controversy last week in an interview by saying that the sovereignty of post-Soviet states is not entirely clear. Beijing has been doing cleanup of the comments in recent days, potentially by accelerating the timeline for Xi’s conversation with Zelenskyy.
Xi visited Moscow in March and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where the two touted the closeness of their partnership and increasing defense cooperation between the two powers.