China’s foreign minister makes rare call to Ukrainian counterpart ahead of Xi’s Moscow visit

China’s foreign minister made a rare call to his Ukrainian counterpart to express concerns about the war in Europe spinning out of control and urged for talks with Russia on a solution.

The call was made on Thursday ahead of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s expected visit to Moscow on 20 March in an apparent show of support for his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

It has been more than a year since Mr Putin launched an unprovoked war in Ukraine, leading to over eight million displacements and thousands of civilian deaths.

Chinese minister Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba that Beijing has “always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, has committed itself to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks”.

Beijing is concerned that a resolution to “the crisis” may be delayed, which could lead to the situation escalating, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

The Ukrainian minister later in a tweet said they discussed “the significance of the principle of territorial integrity”.

“I underscored the importance of [Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s] Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine,” wrote Mr Kuleba.

He spoke to Mr Qin after talking to US secretary of state Antony Blinken.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has long sought talks with Mr Xi, whose government is a close ally of Russia. A call may be held as soon as next week, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Mr Xi’s Moscow visit was sent out “at the invitation of Vladimir Putin”, said the Kremlin on Friday.

Both the leaders will discuss “issues of further development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China”, said the Kremlin’s statement.

It said they will also exchange views “in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese co-operation in the international arena”.

The two leaders will also sign “important bilateral documents”.

China has declared a “no-limits” friendship with Russia and has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while adding that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries be respected.

China has offered to broker peace between the two nations while condemning Western sanctions and accusing Nato of provoking Russia.

Beijing had offered a 12-point plan for “a political resolution of the Ukraine crisis” in February, but this was rejected by Kyiv’s allies as favouring Russia.