Ukraine appears to be trying to capitalize on cracks in China and Russia's alliance after a nuclear snub from Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a joint statement with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres following their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine 08 March 2023,STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited China's Xi Jinping to Ukraine.

  • It comes after cracks emerged in Xi's alliance with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

  • Xi has proposed a plan to end the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Xi Jinping to Ukraine to discuss a peace plan that the Chinese president has proposed to end the war with Russia.

Speaking to the Associated Press Tuesday, Zelenskyy said he'd be willing to open discussions with China's leader - a move that could help Ukraine capitalize on the cracks that have appeared in the China-Russia alliance.

"We are ready to see him here," Zelenskyy said. "I want to speak with him. I had contact with him before full-scale war. But during all this year, more than one year, I didn't have."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters that she didn't know if an invitation had been officially extended to Xi, or if Xi would accept an invitation if one were received.

Zelenskyy's comments come after Xi visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, where the two strongmen leaders renewed their "no limits" pact of cooperation, and signed sweeping new economic deals.

But there are signs of tension in the relationship between Russia and China, analysts say, with Xi having secured lucrative trade deals for China at the Moscow summit in return for no additional support for Russia in Ukraine.

Putin last weekend said he planned to station nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, breaking an agreement Russia had signed only days before at the summit with China.

"What does it mean? It means that the visit was not good for Russia," Zelenskyy told AP, saying that Putin had likely made the move to distract from the fact that China provided no extra support to Russia after the summit.

China, which is officially neutral, has been Russia's most important international backers after it invaded Ukraine, offering diplomatic support and lucrative trade deals that have been a lifeline to the Kremlin amid punishing western sanctions. 

Xi has sought to position himself in recent weeks as a mediator in the conflict, proposing a 12-point peace plan to end the war.

The plan has received a cold response from Ukraine's allies in the West, with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in an interview with NBC News saying it was heavily biased in Russia's favor. The US has warned that China may be preparing to arm Russia, a claim China has denied.

Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday praised China's "balanced" position in the conflict, and said it wasn't Russia's role to comment on who Xi should visit, TASS reported. 

Zelenskyy has previously said that Russia must withdraw from Ukrainian territory for peace to be possible, which isn't included in China's plan, but has also said he is willing to discuss the issue with China.

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