MOSCOW (AP), — While American and European officials might be avoiding the Beijing Winter Olympics due to human rights concerns, Russian President Vladimir Putin will still be present despite tensions over his recent buildup of troops at his border with Ukraine.

Putin’s Friday talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping will be their first meeting in person since 2019. They are meant to strengthen Moscow’s ties and coordinate their policies against Western pressure. The two leaders will then attend the Games’ opening ceremony.

Putin stated that Moscow and Beijing are important players in international affairs, and helped make the world more equitable and inclusive.

Russian President criticized “attempts of some countries to politicize sport to the benefit of their ambitions,” a reference to the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics by the U.S.A and its allies.

Nabila Massrali, EU spokesperson, responded to this statement by saying that “we are, naturally, fully committed to contributing to the promotion and protection of sports integrity and strengthening universal respect for Human Rights.”

Massrali stated that big sports events like the Olympic Games have a wide audience. They can help spread positive values and promote freedom and human rights worldwide. These platforms shouldn’t be used to spread political propaganda.

In protest at China’s arrest of over 1 million Uyghur Muslims from the northwestern region Xinjiang, many Western officials will not attend the Beijing Games. However, leaders of ex-Soviet Central Asian countries, which have close ties to both Russia and China and attended the Beijing Games.

Putin stated that he opposes attempts to politicize sport, or use it as an instrument of coercion.

Putin’s meeting in Helsinki with Xi and his attendance at the opening ceremony “announces further promotion of China-Russia relations,” stated Li Xin (director of the Institute of European and Asian Studies, Shanghai’s University of Political Science and Law).

Li stated that Russia and China have been finding common ground over the U.S.’s disregard for their security and territorial concerns. Both countries have taken to mocking America over its domestic troubles, including last year’s Capitol Riot and its struggle to control COVID-19.

Li stated that the U.S. and Western countries are exerting pressure on Russia over the Ukraine issue, while China is exerting pressure on China over Taiwan. He was referring to Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy, U.S. ally, which China claims as its territory. China and Russia will only be able to strengthen their cooperation if they are subjected to such extreme pressure from the West.

Yuri Ushakov is Putin’s foreign policy adviser. He said that Putin’s visit will mark a new phase in Russia-China’s partnership, which he described as a key factor contributing to a sustainable world development and countering destructive activities by some countries.

He stated that Beijing and Moscow plan to release a joint statement regarding international relations, which will reflect their mutual views on global security issues. Officials from both countries are also set to sign over a dozen agreements on energy and trade.

Ushakov pointed out that Beijing and Moscow have almost identical positions on many international issues. He emphasized the fact that China supports Russia in the current conflict over Ukraine.

“Beijing supports Russia’s security demands and shares a viewpoint that security of one country cannot be ensured through breaching the security of another county,” Ushakov stated in a conference call.

In last week’s call, U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken stated that Moscow’s security concerns must be taken seriously. This was a significant policy shift for Beijing.

Vasily Kashin, a China expert at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, said that China had previously avoided supporting Russian policies in Eastern Europe. “Now, we see more unity.”

Kashin stated that while Moscow and Beijing are unlikely to form a formal defense alliance together, their cooperation “will steadily grow.”

The West is worried that Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine due to the presence of over 100,000 Russian troops in its vicinity. Russia denied any plans to invade Ukraine, but it urged the United States and its allies for a binding promise that NATO would not expand to Ukraine or other ex-Soviet countries or deploy weapons there. The West strongly rejected these demands.

Some observers suggested that Beijing was closely monitoring the U.S. actions in Ukraine and its allies as it considers further strategy for Taiwan. They argued that Washington’s indecision could encourage China to be more assertive.

On Tuesday, Putin accused the U.S. of ignoring Russia’s security needs. However, he left the door open to further talks. He claimed that NATO’s eastward expansion and a possible offer to Ukraine for membership undermine Russia’s security. This is in violation of international agreements that endorse “the independence of security,” which means that one country’s security should not be compromised at the expense or benefit of another.

Russian leader warned that if the West does not heed Russian demands, Putin could order unspecified military-technical moves.

Russia and China held a series of joint war exercises, including drills in naval warfare and patrols by long range bombers over the Sea of Japan. For the first time, Russian troops were deployed to Chinese territory in August for joint maneuvers.

Even though Beijing and Moscow have rejected the idea of forging military alliances in the past, Putin said that such an option cannot be denied. He noted that Russia had been sharing sensitive military technology with China, which helped to significantly increase its defense capabilities.