Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping join hands as Moscow continues to deny invasion plans

Russia: Reaction 'stronger than Putin expected' says Ricketts

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The meeting at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics will see the two top leaders coming together by signing a series of deals in Beijing. They are also expected to discuss a new gas pipeline to China that could provide Russia with an economic lifeline in the event of western sanctions

The Kremlin announced that China will formally offer its support to Russia in its dispute with the West over NATO expansion.

Moscow also said that it was looking to move ahead with the construction of a Power of Siberia 2 pipeline that would run to China through Mongolia.

Putin is among a small group of world leaders to attend the Games, with Western governments including the United States, Britain and Australia, having declared a diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights record.

Other leaders have turned down invitations, citing Beijing’s stringent Covid-19 controls.

Yury Ushakov, a top foreign policy adviser for the Russian president, said Beijing and Moscow would sign a number of agreements on gas during the meeting tomorrow.

Mr Ushakov did not provide exact details on which agreements would be signed, but said they would “mark another step in the development of gas co-operation between Beijing and Moscow”.

He said: “A joint statement on international relations entering a new era has been prepared for the talks.

“Beijing supports Russia’s demands for security guarantees [from NATO].”

Mr Ushakov added that the two powers were jointly calling for the creation of “efficient mechanisms of ensuring security in Europe”.

The Kremlin said both Moscow and Beijing would protect their economies from US sanctions and aim to conclude around 15 deals.

On Monday, China was the only member of the United Nations Security Council to vote alongside Russia to dismiss a council meeting called by the US to discuss Russia’s military build-up at the Ukrainian border, which Russia said amounted to the US “whipping up hysteria.”

Russia wants NATO to withdraw Western forces from former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries, halt its eastwards expansion and vow that neighbouring Ukraine will never be allowed to join the military alliance.

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It has deployed about 130,000 troops to within striking distance of Ukraine, but denied that it is planning an invasion.

A video released by the Russian defence ministry yesterday showed tanks streaming through fields in Belarus and combat aircraft flying above as both countries prepared for joint military drills for ten days from next Thursday.

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