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Zelenskyy, Xi hold first talks since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held their first talks since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The call fulfilled a longstanding goal of Kyiv, which had been publicly seeking such talks for months.

Zelenskyy immediately saw the chance to open closer relations with Russia’s most powerful friend, and he named a former cabinet minister as Ukraine’s new ambassador to Beijing.

The hour-long phone call was described by Zelenskyy as “long and meaningful,” and he tweeted that he believed the call and the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China would give a powerful impetus to the development of bilateral relations.

I had a long and meaningful phone call with 🇨🇳 President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine's ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations.

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) April 26, 2023

Xi told Zelenskyy that China would send special representatives to Ukraine and hold talks with all parties seeking peace.

China has been promoting a 12-point peace plan for Ukraine since February, which has been cautiously welcomed by Kyiv as a sign of Chinese interest in ending the war.

Xi has refrained from denouncing Russia’s invasion, and he made a state visit to Moscow last month.

The United States has expressed concerns that China might provide weapons or ammunition to Russia, although Beijing denies any such plans. Western countries say China’s 12-point peace proposal is too vague, offers no concrete path out of the war, and could be used by Putin to promote a truce that would leave his forces in control of occupied territory while they regroup.

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The war has been ongoing for 14 months, and there are no peace talks in sight. Kyiv demands that Russia withdraw its troops, while Moscow insists that Ukraine must recognize its claims to have annexed seized territory. The conflict is at a juncture, with Ukraine preparing to launch a counteroffensive in the coming weeks or months following a Russian winter offensive that made only incremental advances despite the bloodiest fighting so far.

Following the Xi-Zelenskyy talks, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “We note the readiness of the Chinese side to make efforts to establish a negotiation process.” The call was welcomed by the White House and France, but it is too soon to tell whether it will lead to a peace deal.

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