JEDDAH: China vowed a stronger partnership with Russia on Wednesday and US President Joe Biden rallied NATO allies in eastern Europe amid soaring global tensions before the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin told a huge state-organized patriotic rally in Moscow that Russia was fighting for its “historical” lands in Ukraine, and its soldiers were “fighting heroically, courageously, bravely — we are proud of them.”
In Ukraine, school classes moved online for the rest of the week for fear of an upsurge in Russian missile attacks a year on from the Feb. 24 invasion.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Russia since the invasion, told Putin that Beijing was ready to enhance ties. A time of crisis called for Russia and China “to continuously deepen our comprehensive strategic partnership,” he said.
Putin said he was looking forward to a visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping and a deeper partnership. Xi is expected to make a “peace speech” on Friday, but Kyiv says there can be no talk of peace while Russian troops are in Ukraine.
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“This unprovoked and criminal Russian war against Ukraine, Europe and the democratic world must end with the cleansing of the entire Ukrainian land from Russian occupation and solid guarantees of the long-term security for our state, the whole of Europe and the entire world,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Russia is due to begin military exercises with China in South Africa on Friday and has sent a frigate equipped with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles.
Russian aggression in Ukraine had changed the security situation in Europe, Polish President Andrzej Duda told a meeting in Warsaw of nine eastern NATO members. Biden said Washington was committed to defending every inch of the alliance’s territory.
“You are the front line of our collective defense,” the president told the summit of countries that joined the Western military alliance after being aligned with Moscow during the Cold War.
Most are now among the strongest supporters of military aid to Ukraine and in a joint declaration called for an NATO presence on its eastern flank.
Biden said the invasion had tested the world but Washington and its allies had shown they would defend democracy. He rejected Russia’s assertion that the West was seeking to control or destroy Russia, and accused Moscow of crimes against humanity.