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Putin and Xi Jinping claim their ‘unprecedented partnership’ is a stabilising influence at Beijing talks

Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held talks in Beijing on Thursday aimed at presenting a united front amid the pomp and spectacle of a state visit that was being closely watched around the world.

There was not a great deal of substance to the statements issued publicly by the two leaders after their meeting, which included a state dinner on Thursday night as well as talks ranging across a broad range of subjects from the war in Ukraine to their shared trade interests.

But nor was there any sign that recent US sanctions against Chinese companies exporting to Russia had dampened Mr Xi’s enthusiasm for relations with the man he welcomed as his “old friend”.

Mr Putin arrived in Beijing in the early hours of Thursday and was later welcomed formally with a 21-gun salute, a guard of honour and a marching band playing Moscow Nights as he met Mr Xi at theGreat Hall of the People.

The two-day trip is Mr Putin’s first abroad since he began his fifth term as Russian president, a symbolic gesture that also comes at a strategic junction, coming just a week after Mr Xi completed a five-day charm offensive across Europe that included a warm welcome in France. France’s Emmanuel Macron has in recent months become a leading hawk among European leaders when it comes to Ukraine, refusing to rule out French boots on the ground if the need arises.

Ukraine featured extensively in Thursday’s discussions in Beijing, with Mr Xi standing alongside Mr Putin as he said: “China hopes for the early return of Europe to peace and stability and will continue to play a constructive role toward this.”

Mr Putin referred euphemistically to the war he started against his European neighbour as “the situation in Ukraine”, and the two said

Read more on independent.co.uk