China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, begins on Monday a four-day trip to Russia during which both nations are expected to pledge deeper mutual political trust, readying for a possible landmark visit by President Vladimir Putin to Beijing in October.
Wang, who heads the foreign ministry as well as the ruling Communist Party’s foreign affairs office, will meet Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev for annual security talks, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
The veteran diplomat’s talks with counterpart Sergei Lavrov will cover a “wide range of issues” including “contacts at higher and the highest levels,” the Russian foreign ministry said last week.
Wang is expected to lay the groundwork for Putin’s visit to the Chinese capital for the third Belt and Road Forum after an invitation by President Xi Jinping during a high-profile visit to Moscow in March.
Putin attended China’s first two Belt and Road Forums in 2017 and 2019. But he is not known to have travelled abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him on grounds of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Xie Huanchi | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
On Sept. 1, Putin said he expected to meet Xi soon, but did not explicitly confirm that he would travel to China again.
The warrant, issued just days before Xi visited Russia, obligates the court’s 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to the Hague for trial if he enters their territory. However, China is not a party to the Rome Statute that led to the establishment of the ICC in 2002.
The visit will also see a detailed exchange of views on issues including Ukraine, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week.
Ukraine recaptured two villages in the area around Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, in recent days as its grueling counteroffensive continues in the south and east of the country.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday that Kyiv’s forces had liberated Andriivka and Klishchiivka over the weekend but said Russian was “trying with all his might to regain lost positions.”
“Our fighters hold back the enemy’s attacks there and are entrenched at the achieved frontiers,” she said in a post on Telegram. Two square kilometers, or 0.77 miles, of territory had been regained in the past week around Bakhmut, an epicenter of fighting for months.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy congratulated his forces in the region in his nightly address Sunday, saying “I would like to especially recognize the warriors who are gradually regaining Ukraine’s territory in the area of Bakhmut.”
A Ukrainian serviceman walks near a destroyed Ukrainian tank, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the village of Robotyne, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on Aug. 25, 2023.
Viacheslav Ratynskyi | Reuters
Ukrainian forces are also trying to push southward to regain towns and cities toward, and on, the Sea of Azov.
Maliar said Ukraine is continuing its “offensive operation in the Melitopol direction” and that there was success in the area south and east of Robotyne, a town in the southern Zaporizhia region that Ukraine said it had recaptured in late August.
In the past week, defense forces in the south have liberated 5.2 square km of territory. Since the start of the counteroffensive, 261.7 square km has been retaken in the region.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian troops have likely been reinforcing their defenses around the occupied town of Tokmak in southern Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Sunday.
“Tokmak is preparing to become a lynchpin of Russia’s second main line of defences,” the ministry said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Ukrainian soldiers fire grenades toward Russian forces from a trench on the front line near Donetsk on Sept. 9, 2023, in Ukraine.
Pierre Crom | Getty Images
It noted that Russia is likely deploying additional checkpoints, “hedgehog” anti-tank defenses and digging new trenches in the area, which is held by its 58th Combined Arms Army. Tokmak is around 10 miles behind the current front line.
The ministry noted that improvements to the town’s defenses likely indicate Russia’s growing concern about Ukrainian tactical penetrations, in recent weeks, of the first main defensive line to the north.
— Holly Ellyatt