Putin arrives in China's 'Little Moscow' as allies aim to deepen trade ...

23 days ago

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Edited by Jack Burgess

All times stated are UK

What's been happening?

Copyright: Reuters

Image caption: The Russian president has been out and about in Harbin today - he's pictured here laying flowers at a memorial to Soviet soldiers

Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the second day of his trip to China, visiting Harbin - the capital of China's north-eastern Heilongjiang province, which shares a border with Russia.

Here's what's been happening:

On day two, Putin's focus is on trade and how he can support Russia's war-time economy The Russian president has delivered the opening address at the Russia-China Expo, in Harbin, and says the energy ties between the two countries will continue to grow. Putin has also said the Russia-China alliance acts as a guarantor of energy security and enhanced well-being between the two countries Putin has also been laying flowers at a memorial to Soviet soldiers in Harbin, who died during the liberation of north-east China from the Japanese in the 1940s While Putin is in China, Moscow's top energy official has said Russia is hoping to see significant progress towards finalising an agreement on the "Power of Siberia 2" project, which would allow Russia to deliver natural gas to China via Mongolia Before arriving in Harbin, Putin was hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Zhongnanhai - a compound where China's leaders work and reside and which is reserved only for China's closest allies Putin arrived in Beijing early on Thursday in what is his first state visit overseas since winning his fifth term in office last March, an election that was widely criticised by the West as undemocratic

Putin describes Russia-China partnership as 'inseparable'

Vladimir Putin - Figure 2
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Copyright: Reuters

We can bring you more now from Putin’s speech to the Russia-China Expo a little earlier.

According to the Reuters news agency, the Russian president said his country has an “inseparable” partnership with China that will create new industries and “well-paid” jobs.

Putin has said “large-scale mutual projects” are underway, saying Chinese carmakers have entered the Russian market, and plans to build long-range aircraft and helicopters are moving forward, Reuters reports.

And the Russian president has also said his country welcomes and is ready to provide support to Chinese businesses setting up production in Russia.

As we reported earlier, Putin also told the trade forum that the two countries' alliance acts as a guarantor for energy security.

Russia's growing trade with China

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Trade and economic co-operation is the theme of President Putin's second day of his visit to China.

Vladimir Putin - Figure 3
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Beijing has become a vital partner for Moscow, as it seeks to soften the impact of sanctions imposed by the US and other countries.

China has repeatedly denied allegations that it supplies Russia with weapons.

In an interview with BBC News, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said: "What's not happening is the provision of actual arms by China to Russia for use in Ukraine."

However, China has been accused of building up Moscow's war machine by providing critical components.

Blinken has said: "Those are being used to help Russia on what's an extraordinary crash course effort to make more munitions, tanks, armoured vehicles, missiles."

About 70% of the machine tools and 90% of the microelectronics Russia imports come from China, he added.

Beijing exports more than $300m (£237m), external worth of dual-use items - those with both commercial and military applications - to Russia every month, according to an analysis of Chinese customs data by the Carnegie Endowment think tank.

Vladimir Putin - Figure 4
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It says the list includes what the US has designated as "high priority" items, which are necessary for making weapons, from drones to tanks.

RUSI, a UK-based think tank has also cautioned about the potential use of Chinese satellite technology, external for intelligence on Ukraine's front line.

Beijing has also become Moscow's key supplier of cars, clothing, raw materials and many other products, after Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia.

Trade between China and Russia reached a record $240bn (£191bn) in 2023, up more than 64% since 2021 - before Russia's invasion of Ukraine - according to official figures from China.

Russia-China alliance acts as guarantor of energy security - Putin

Joao Da Silva

Business reporter

Vladimir Putin has continued to focus on the energy ties between Russia and China as he addressed the trade forum in Harbin.

He says their alliance acts as a guarantor of energy security and enhances the well-being of the two countries.

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Putin has also stressed the potential for co-operation between the neighbouring regions of Russia and China.

'China's MIT' readies for Putin visit

Copyright: Getty Images

Today Putin is visiting Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), one of China's top science and engineering universities.

It was first established in 1920 and at that time, all of its courses were taught in Russian and followed the Russian education model.

These days HIT is known as "China's MIT". It's also known as China's “cradle of engineers” and one of the country's "Seven Sons of National Defence" institutes for students who want to enter the defence industry.

It was sanctioned by the US government in 2020 and added to Washington's blacklist amid the US-China tech war.

On social media, many HIT students have expressed excitement about Putin's visit, though some are none too happy about the intensified security measures on campus.

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"I want to go and see him but my building was put under lockdown," one student wrote on Xiaohongshu, an Instagram-like platform. "My lunch delivery order has just been rejected," another one said.

Putin: Russia 'ready to supply' China with clean energy

Copyright: RT

Image caption: Russian state media released a picture of Putin speaking at the expo

Putin has now moved on to the Russia-China Expo where he has delivered the opening address.

He said energy ties between the two countries would continue to grow, and that his country was ready to supply China with clean energy, according to Reuters news agency.

Moscow is hoping for progress towards signing a deal on the “Power of Siberia 2” pipeline project which would supply China with Russian natural gas.

We'll bring you more lines from his speech as we get them.

Putin lays flowers at memorial for Soviet soldiers

Copyright: AP

Vladimir Putin - Figure 7
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We've just seen some fresh footage of Putin out and about in Harbin. The first stop on his schedule is a memorial to Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of north-east China from the Japanese in the 1940s.

The footage shows Putin laying a bouquet of red flowers on the memorial.

Copyright: AP

Copyright: AP

Putin focusing on trade on day 2

On the second day of his trip, Putin’s focus is on trade and how it can give his country’s wartime economy some much needed support.

As the guest of honour at the Russia-China trade expo, Putin is expected to deliver the opening address.

Trade between Russia and China has soared to a record $240bn (£191bn) in 2023, as other powers rushed to cut ties with Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine.

There’s a sizeable trade delegation travelling with Putin, including Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina.

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Executives from some of Russia’s largest banks and energy companies are also there, including Sberbank CEO German Gref, businessman Oleg Deripaska, VTB chief Andrei Kostin, Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and Novatek boss Leonid Mikhelson.

You can read more about the Russia-China trade relationship here.

Copyright: Getty Images

Image caption: Rosneft chief Igor Sechin (right) and VEB Corporation director Igor Shuvalov (left) are among several Russian top executives in China

Russia wants progress on gas deal with China

Moscow’s top energy official, Alexander Novak, has said the Kremlin would like to see significant progress toward finalising an agreement on the “Power of Siberia 2” project.

Speaking on Russian state-owned television Rossiya 1 yesterday, Novak said the plan was to sign the contract for the strategic pipeline “in the near future”.

The plan, which was first agreed between the two countries in 2014, would allow Russia to deliver natural gas to North China via Mongolia, using a pipeline with a capacity of 50bn cubic metres.

Vladimir Putin - Figure 9
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The major infrastructure project is an important step in Russia’s efforts to redirect natural gas supplies that used to go to Europe, but which were stopped by European countries following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

WATCH: What do ordinary Chinese think of Putin's visit?

On the streets of Beijing, Chinese people had varying views on Putin's visit and China's relationship with Russia.

One woman said she didn’t think closer relations with Russia was a “good thing”. But others were hopeful that relations would remain friendly and “cooperative”.

Video contentVideo caption: Watch: Beijing residents reflect on Putin’s visit

Trump says Putin and Xi 'getting together to do damage'

Copyright: Reuters

In the last few hours, former US President Donald Trump has accused Xi and Putin of planning to "do damage".

Speaking to reporters in New York, following a day in court for his hush-money trial, Trump said: "President Xi of China, I know him well, and President Putin of Russia, I know him well.

Vladimir Putin - Figure 10
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"They're right now, together working on plans, where they combine, where they get together and do damage because that's ultimately what they're thinking about, doing damage."

During his time in office, Trump had a tumultuous relationship with Xi. He had hosted the Chinese leader at his Mar-a-Lago resort in 2017 and trumpeted their "outstanding" relationship, but in later years Trump called Xi an "enemy".

Meanwhile Trump's relations with Putin had always been frosty.

China hits back at US during Putin visit

While Putin was hosted by Xi yesterday, China also took the opportunity to hit back at the US, which alleges Beijing is aiding Russia in its war on Ukraine.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin accused the US of being "hypocritical and irresponsible" for accusing China of exporting dual-use materials that could help Russia's weapon production.

Beijing has taken issue with Washington supplying weapons to Ukraine.

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Speaking at a daily press conference on Thursday afternoon, Wang insisted that China handles the export of military products "in a prudent and responsible way".

He added that blaming China will "not end the crisis, nor will it get the US out of its tricky situation".

"What has happened shows that those who fuel the flames will only get bogged down deeper and deeper in it, and political settlement is the only right way forward to end the Ukraine crisis," he said.

Copyright: EPA

Image caption: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin

Early morning arrival in Harbin for Putin

Copyright: Reuters

After a long day of meetings in Beijing yesterday, Putin flew to Harbin several hours ago where he was greeted by local officials. State media reported he arrived "before dawn".

Putin's schedule today in the north-eastern Chinese city includes the opening ceremony of the 8th Russia-China Expo and the Russian-Chinese Forum on Interregional Cooperation.

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He is expected to lay a wreath at a memorial to Soviet soldiers and the Harbin Institute of Technology, also known as the "MIT of China".

What's happening in the Ukraine war?

While Putin is seeking to reinforce Moscow's alliance with Beijing this week, Russian troops have been advancing in their assault on north-eastern Ukraine.

On 10 May, Russian forces penetrated the border area north of Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv. They have since taken a number of villages not far from the frontier, and are trying to push forward as Ukraine’s outgunned forces try to shore up a weakened front line.

Russia’s force in Ukraine now numbers more than half a million, leaving Ukraine’s military outmanned as well as outgunned.

Even as Putin pursues gains on the ground, there have been signs that the Kremlin could be prepared to return to peace talks abandoned two years ago.

In an interview with Chinese state news agency Xinhua earlier this week, Putin said Moscow is "open to a dialogue on Ukraine".

Vladimir Putin - Figure 13
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"But such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours," he said.

You can read more about the war in Ukraine here.

A symbolic meeting behind high walls

Copyright: Getty Images

Image caption: The two leaders took a stroll in the compound, sipped tea, and had "in-depth exchanges on strategic issues of common concern"

Before Putin arrived in Harbin today, Xi hosted him at Zhongnanhai, a compound where China's leaders work and reside. It's the rough equivalent of the White House in Washington.

The two leaders took a stroll, sipped tea, and had "in-depth exchanges on strategic issues of common concern", reported China's state news agency Xinhua.

Beyond the issues discussed, the fact that Xi hosted Putin at Zhongnanhai is symbolic. Once a playground of Chinese emperors and their concubines, Zhongnanhai is today home to the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party and the residences of its top leaders.

Vladimir Putin - Figure 14
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Analysts have told the BBC that leaders would typically host only their closer allies in the compound.

In 2014, Xi met former US President Barack Obama in Zhongnanhai. A year later, he met with King Philippe of Belgium there. He has not invited many foreign leaders to the compound in recent years.

Xi and Putin met yesterday in front of the Yingtai Bridge, which was built during the Ming dynasty. During the Qing dynasty which was established after that, emperors met guests, discussed documents and proposals from officials at Yingtai, making it a significant policy-making spot outside the Forbidden City.

Copyright: Getty Images

Image caption: The Zhongnanhai leadership compound is dotted with ornate buildings and shrouded in secrecy

Watch: Putin drinks tea, hugs Xi during Beijing visit

The two leaders wrapped up day one of Vladimir Putin’s visit to China with a stroll through Beijing’s Zhongnanhai Park. They sipped tea and later, shared a hug in front of cameras.

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Video contentVideo caption: Watch: Putin drinks tea, hugs Xi during Beijing visit

Putin says his family is learning Chinese

In an earlier interview with state news outlet Xinhua, the Russian leader made rare mention of his family, saying they are interested in China and that some of them are even learning how to speak Chinese.

Putin said he knew “quite a bit” about Chinese martial arts and that he respects Chinese philosophy.

He said he was “always eager to discover China’s unique and authentic traditions”, specially during his visits to the country.

What will Putin do in China's Ice City?

Copyright: Getty Images

Image caption: An aerial view of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin

During his time in Harbin, Putin will visit a China-Russia trade fair to underscore the strength of economic links between the two countries.

Harbin is the capital of China's north-eastern Heilongjiang province, which shares a border with Russia. The city was founded by Russian settlers in the 1900s and once had the nickname "Little Moscow".

Vladimir Putin - Figure 16
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Harbin, together with the wider province, was taken by Japan in 1931 but retaken in 1945 by Soviet forces, who returned it to Chinese control.

The city's centre is marked by the towering St Sophia Cathedral, a former Russian Orthodox church. In winter, tourists flock to Harbin for an annual Ice and Snow Festival and many would pose for photos in front of the cathedral.

In Harbin, Putin is expected to lay a wreath at a memorial to Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of the north-east of China in the 1940s. Online posts from locals suggest that the city has been thoroughly cleaned and the memorial repainted for the Russian leader's visit.

The Russian leader will also visit the Harbin Institute of Technology, a site of scientific exchange between China and Russia.

The city of Harbin itself conducts a lot of trade with Russia and some of the ten million people living there choose to learn Russian. There is also a park named after the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Vladimir Putin - Figure 17
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Welcome back to our live coverage

Copyright: Getty Images

Hello and welcome back to our live coverage, as Russia's President Vladimir Putin kicks off the second and final day of his visit to China.

He has now landed in Harbin, a city in the north-east, also known as China's "little Moscow" for its large Russian population.

Today, he will visit a memorial to Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of the city in the 1940s. He will also be attending two China-Russia business conferences.

The Russian leader touched down in China's capital city Beijing on Thursday, where he was greeted by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping - with a red-carpet welcome complete with Red Army songs. Putin and Xi praised their friendship and deep ties in a joint appearance before the media on Thursday.

The meeting between the two leaders - the third in just over a year - comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raged on for more than two years

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Stay with us as we bring you updates and expert analysis from our teams in China, Russia and Singapore.


A strong show of unity on display in Beijing

Laura Bicker

China correspondent in Beijing

Copyright: Reuters

The Chinese President Xi Jinping and his guest President Vladimir Putin will enjoy a concert together as they end their day of warm words about “deepening their partnership”.

But the language from Beijing has not reached the lofty heights of Moscow’s initial statement, which claimed the relationship was at an "unprecedented” level.

Instead, Xi told his Russian counterpart that he cherished the relationship and wanted to nurture it. This will be welcome news to Putin as China has become his lifeline after the West imposed sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

A strong show of unity has been on display, with Xi saying China is willing to support the "rejuvenation of our respective countries", while Putin has said their joint co-operation was a “stabilising factor” in the world.

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These statements surely aim to challenge the US-led world order, but will be met with derision in the West where Putin is being investigated as a war criminal.

Xi says he is willing to be a good friend to Russia, but he also has his own priorities. Washington stands ready to impose sanctions on Beijing if it continues to help Russia’s war machine.

Yes, he has rolled out the red carpet for his comrade, complete with Red Army songs. And yes, the two stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the sunshine of Tiananmen Square.

But if Putin wants more from this relationship, it might be more than Xi is willing to give when China is relying on exports to revive its sluggish economy.

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