China’s Leader Will Visit Putin Under Shadow of War-Crimes Warrant

Global dividing lines over Russia’s war in Ukraine hardened on Friday with the announcement that China’s top leader Xi Jinping would meet face-to-face with President Vladimir V. Putin in Russia next week, under the shadow of an issued arrest warrant. by the International Criminal Court accusing Mr. Putin of war crimes.

Mr. Xi’s visit was billed by China as a personal diplomacy mission to help bring about peace between Russia and Ukraine. But Western officials see it more widely as the most overt sign yet of China’s support for Putin, and that Xi is increasingly determined to challenge the idea of ​​any US-led global order by moving other countries closer to orbit. closest. Porcelain.

Even with a seemingly strengthened lifeline from China, Russia looked more isolated than ever on Friday. Its neighbor Finland overcame a hurdle to join NATO. The European allies maneuvered to obtain fighter jets from Ukraine. And, most dramatically, the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged Putin with war crimes, placing him alongside only a handful of other national leaders, including Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor, to face that charge.

In issuing his arrest warrant, the court said Putin had individual criminal responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children.

Russia did not sign the 2002 treaty which established the authority of the ICC, and its Foreign Ministry rejected the war crimes charges, as it has done since the invasion began. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said that Russia will not cooperate with the court and that its decisions “have no meaning for our country, even from a legal point of view.”

There was no immediate reaction to the ICC from China, which is also not party to the treaty and has resisted Western calls to further isolate Russia.

Mr. Xi’s three-day visit to Moscow was scheduled to start on Monday as Beijing tries to harness its power in global affairs and supplant US influence in world capitals. The diplomatic trip will come just a week after bitter rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran announced a possible rapprochement thanks to Chinese mediation, surprising many diplomats in the United States and Europe.

China has already proposed a peace deal for the war in Ukraine, but many American and European officials view it skeptically, saying it fails to address important issues such as whether Russian troops would withdraw.

“A ceasefire now is, again, effectively ratification of the Russian conquest,” John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters on Friday. “In effect, he would acknowledge Russia’s gains and her attempt to conquer her neighbor’s territory by force, allowing Russian troops to continue occupying Ukraine’s sovereign territory.”

Mr Kirby also expressed doubt that Mr Xi’s meeting next week in Russia represented a genuine effort at peacemaking, reiterating his concern that China was weighing the possibility of providing Russia with weapons for its use. in the war.

It is unclear whether Mr. Xi intends to speak separately with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has spent much of the past year on a diplomatic campaign to appeal for support. Mr Kirby said it was “very important” for Mr Xi to hear from Ukraine, “and not just from Mr Putin and not just from a Russian perspective.”

Although a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said Mr. Xi’s visit is aimed at “persuading peace and promoting talks,” both Beijing and Moscow described the meeting as an opportunity to deepen ties.

The Kremlin said the talks would focus on “a comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Mr. Xi would use the visit to increase “mutual trust and understanding” between Russia and China, which he said he had “established a new paradigm for international relations.”

That drive for a “new paradigm” appears to be at the heart of Xi’s diplomatic push in recent months, as he has sought to project an image as a global statesman who works with all comers, regardless of how they came to power or how they arrived. how they hold it Most notably, Xi has recently courted leaders whose relations with the United States are strained or who openly disagree with him.

He met President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus in March and President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran before that, welcoming the Iranian leader, who has supplied drones to Russia, with a 21-gun salute in the square. of Tiananmen.

And while visiting Saudi Arabia, he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, who embraced him in a sight that was in stark contrast to the prince’s earlier meeting with President Biden, who had called Saudi Arabia a ” outcast” for their rights. record.

As he enters his third term as president, Xi has taken a tougher stance against what he calls a US effort to block China’s rise. To counter this, he urged Chinese industries to reduce their reliance on Western technology, hailed China’s growth as proof that it doesn’t need Western politics, and described China as a nation under siege, just as Putin has done in speeches to the Russians.

“Western countries led by the United States have implemented the containment, encirclement and suppression of China in all aspects, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to our country’s development,” Xi said in a statement. a speech this month, according to China’s official news agency.

As China has reached out to Russia, European nations have followed suit with NATO and Ukraine. Turkey announced on Friday that it would move to ratify Finland’s application to join NATO, removing a major hurdle for the country to join the alliance, though Sweden’s application remains stalled.

And Slovakia’s government said it would send 13 Soviet-designed MiG fighter jets to Ukraine, a day after Poland’s president made a similar announcement. Ukraine has requested fighter jets for months, just as it urged NATO members to send it advanced rocket systems, air defenses and, most recently, tanks, slowly receiving many of the weapons it requested.

But that has not come without an intense dispute between the allies, and on Friday German officials said Poland needed to make sure that any of the MiG jets it now plans to send to Ukraine were not among those Berlin sold to Warsaw in 2003.

The Biden administration has so far refused to send F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine has requested, but suggested that the weapons may continue to find their way onto the battlefield from other nations.

Ukraine has welcomed the aid, although it has also persisted in its calls for more advanced weaponry that could be used to more significant effect. Most of Slovakia’s MiG-29 fighter jets are malfunctioning, for example, meaning that while they could provide spare parts for Ukraine’s own fleet of Soviet-era planes, Ukrainian officials believe that is little. likely to change the balance of forces on the battlefield. .

David Pierson, valerie hopkins, lara jakes, marc santora, Michael D. Shear, viviana nereim and keith bradsher contributed reporting.