(Beijing) Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday he was confident his visit to Russia would give “new impetus” to relations with Moscow, after stepping off his plane onto the airport tarmac in the Russian capital.

“I am convinced that this visit will be fruitful and that it will give new impetus to the healthy and stable development of Sino-Russian relations,” said the Chinese leader, quoted by Russian news agencies, describing Beijing and Moscow as “good neighbours” and “reliable partners”.

It is the Chinese leader’s first visit to Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine and his first trip to Moscow in nearly four years.

In an article published in the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Xi Jinping presented his visit as a “journey of friendship, cooperation and peace”, in the face of Westerners who view the Sino-Russian relationship with suspicion.

“I look forward to working with President Putin to jointly embrace a new vision” of bilateral ties, Xi wrote in particular.

On the strength of having facilitated the recent diplomatic reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, China is positioning itself as a mediator on the Russia-Ukraine war and calls in particular for peace negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv.

In an article published Monday in a Chinese newspaper, Vladimir Putin hails “China’s willingness to play a constructive role in the settlement” of the conflict and believes that “Russian-Chinese relations have reached the highest point in their history”.

Xi Jinping’s visit comes days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it had issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president, accused of war crimes for “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children .

A habitual of vitriolic remarks, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, currently deputy chairman of the National Security Council, said the court in The Hague could be the target of a strike with a Russian missile.

“One can very well imagine a high-precision strike with a Russian Oniks hypersonic missile from a Russian ship in the North Sea against the court building in The Hague,” he wrote on Telegram, urging ICC judges to “look carefully at the sky”.

Once a rather liberal figure within the Russian regime, Mr. Medvedev has become one of the staunchest supporters of the offensive against Ukraine, multiplying vitriolic statements against Kyiv and its Western allies.

Many analysts, however, doubt Xi Jinping’s ability to bring about such a rapprochement on the Ukrainian issue, given the ties that unite Moscow and Beijing – and his relative lack of influence on the Kremlin.

The arrival of the Chinese president also offers a breath of fresh air to Vladimir Putin, diplomatically isolated and who, as a sign of defiance, went this weekend to Mariupol, a Ukrainian city devastated by the bombings.

It was the first visit by the Russian president to a conquered area since the start of the offensive launched by the Kremlin at the end of February 2022.

Xi Jinping, who has just started a third term as president, something unheard of in China, regularly calls Vladimir Putin his “old friend”.

United by a “limitless” partnership, celebrated last year three weeks before the start of the intervention in Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow have come closer in recent years, in particular to form a common front against the West.

China has not publicly condemned the Russian invasion and criticizes the United States for its arms deliveries to Ukraine as well as NATO for failing to take into account Russian security concerns.

Beijing, however, calls for dialogue as well as respect for the territorial integrity of all states – including therefore Ukraine.

“No country should dictate the international order,” Xi Jinping wrote in the article published in the Russian newspaper.

“China has always taken an objective and unbiased position based on the substance of the matter and actively promoted the peace talks. »

A position deemed too lukewarm by several Western countries, for which China thus tacitly supports Russian aggression.

They also believe that Beijing’s broad calls for peace cannot be translated into concrete actions immediately.

The United States has already indicated that it will not support a new Chinese call for a ceasefire during Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, considering that this would amount to consolidating Russian control over the territories conquered in Ukraine. .

Many analysts also doubt Xi Jinping’s ability to really facilitate a Russian-Ukrainian rapprochement, given the ties between Moscow and Beijing – and his relative lack of influence in the Kremlin.

The Chinese and Russian presidents will have an “informal” first tete-a-tete on Monday before a dinner, then talks on Tuesday, Kremlin diplomatic adviser Yuri Ushakov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

In particular, they will sign “a joint declaration […] on the deepening of relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic relationship entering a new era” as well as a document on bilateral economic cooperation by 2030, he said. he declares.

According to the American daily The Wall Street Journal, Xi Jinping, in the name of the neutrality displayed by his country, could also meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky once back in China.