Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised China's Xi Jinping for his "balanced" position on the conflict in Ukraine and scolded the United States for what the Kremlin chief said were provocations over Taiwan.
Xi, on his first trip outside China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, met Putin in the ancient Uzbek Silk Road city of Samarkand where they will attend a summit of The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Speaking at their first face-to-face meeting since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, Putin praised Xi for his position on the war in Ukraine but also said he understood Beijing had "questions and concern" over the conflict.
China has refrained from condemning Russia's operation against Ukraine or calling it an "invasion" in line with the Kremlin, which casts the war as "a special military operation".
"We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis," Putin said. "We understand your questions and concern about this. During today's meeting, we will of course explain our position."
Putin explicitly backed China over Taiwan.
China held blockade-style military drills around Taiwan after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island last month. Taiwan's government strongly rejects China's sovereignty claims.
"We intend to firmly adhere to the principle of 'One China'," Putin said. "We condemn provocations by the United States and their satellites in the Taiwan Strait."
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