In the middle of his war against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin received China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping for a three-day state visit. Right at the start on Monday in the Kremlin, Putin told his “friend” that he was familiar with the proposals from Beijing to solve the crisis. Xi Jinping countered that there are no simple solutions to complicated crises. Earlier, he was greeted by soldiers on drill and a military orchestra at the Vnukovo government airport in the sunshine.

In the parade hall of the Senate Palace on the Kremlin grounds, Putin and Xi then shook hands for a long time. The Kremlin chief stressed that Russia is open to talks about Ukraine. “We are undoubtedly discussing all these issues, including your initiative,” said Putin along with Xi in front of a fireplace. The fact that the two men of almost the same age – Putin is 70, Xi 69 years old – sat by the fireplace is considered a sign of special closeness. The hall also contains the large, oval negotiating table at which Putin receives guests of state.

China has never condemned Russia’s war against Ukraine in more than a year. On the first anniversary on February 24, 2022, it presented a 12-point plan for a “political solution to the Ukraine crisis”, which was largely met with disappointment in the West. Beijing is committed to a ceasefire and negotiations.

For Putin, who has had an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for war crimes since Friday, the visit is also particularly important because he wants to show that he is not isolated internationally. Putin said he envied China’s economic success. Russia’s economy, on the other hand, is groaning under the sanctions imposed by the West in the wake of the war.

For Xi, the visit to his big neighbor is also his first trip abroad since the beginning of his third term. As soon as he was greeted, the Chinese made everyone sit up and take notice because he himself mentioned the presidential elections in Russia in March next year, which have otherwise been ignored in domestic politics. According to reports from the Russian state media, he was confident that Putin will emerge victorious from the election.

“Thanks to your strong leadership, Russia has made significant strides in achieving success and prospering the country in recent years. I am confident that the Russian people will support you in your good intentions,” Xi said, according to the Russian translation. The statement was explosive because Putin has not yet declared his candidacy at all. The Kremlin boss didn’t change his face.

The Kremlin, on the other hand, immediately rejected the fact that Xi had said that Putin was running for election. “Chairman Xi did not say that Putin would participate in the election. Chairman Xi expressed his belief that Russians support Putin, and here one can only share his belief,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

In the morning, the state press in China and Russia published lengthy articles in which Putin and Xi reaffirmed their friendship. The meeting also comes in the light of both countries’ aspirations for a US-led world without Western hegemony. In the Renmin Bibao newspaper, Putin once again criticized “illegal unilateral sanctions that should be abolished”. In it he also commented on the war and the willingness to find a diplomatic solution.

“The future of the peace process depends solely on the readiness for a serious dialogue, taking into account the new geopolitical realities,” he wrote. From a Russian point of view, this means that Ukraine should give up areas. Kyiv refuses. In addition, Putin once again called on NATO to take the security interests of others into account. “We are concerned about the irresponsible and simply dangerous actions that can destroy global nuclear security.”

In the Russian government newspaper “Rossiyskaya Gazeta”, Xi Jinping emphasized Beijing’s “objective and impartial” attitude to the war in Ukraine. China is making active efforts to support peace negotiations and reconciliation. Any settlement of the Ukraine conflict would have to respect the goals and principles of the UN Charter. The “reasonable concerns of all states in the field of security” must be taken into account.

Above all, the two heads of state want to expand economic cooperation between their countries during the talks, which will last until Wednesday. The most important day is Tuesday. According to the Kremlin, the signing of agreements to expand an “all-encompassing partnership” and “strategic cooperation” is also planned.

After meeting face to face, Putin and Xi ended their first day with dinner together. At the six-course menu, the two heads of state could choose between white salmon and reindeer meat for the main course. The dish was flanked by seafood, a pancake with quail and mushrooms and the Russian fish soup ucha. For dessert there was a pomegranate sorbet and the fruit and cream meringue Pavlova. In addition, wines from the Russian noble winery Divnomorskoje were served.