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China calls reports on Chinese-Russian coordination on Ukraine ‘fake news’

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin attends a news conference in Beijing, China, on March 2, 2020. (Photo by China’s Foreign Ministry)

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has called reports about alleged Chinese and Russian coordination ahead of Russia’s attack on Ukraine “fake news.”

Such practices of diverting attention and shifting blame are “despicable,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at a regular media briefing on Wednesday.

US officials said on Wednesday that a Western intelligence report indicated that Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans before the invasion of Ukraine started last week.

“The claims mentioned in the relevant reports are speculations without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China,” said Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

The New York Times first published the report that in early February, Chinese officials had requested that senior Russian officials wait until after the Beijing Olympics finishes before launching military operations in Ukraine.

NEW: Senior Chinese officials asked senior Russian officials to delay an invasion of Ukraine until after the Winter Olympics, according to U.S. & European officials. They cited a Western intelligence report. Xi & Putin met on Feb. 4. w/ @julianbarnes.

— Edward Wong (@ewong) March 2, 2022

Although the report said the request had been made when Putin met with President Xi Jinping of China before the opening ceremony of the Olympics during his visit to Beijing on February 4, it was unclear from the report whether Putin addressed the matter with Xi directly.

After Putin and Xi’s meeting, Moscow and Beijing issued a joint statement declaring their support for each other’s foreign policy, while they also agreed on wider security issues aimed at countering US influence.

China is Russia’s biggest trading partner and the two countries have been strengthening their economic, diplomatic, and military ties for years. Putin and Xi have met 37 times as national leaders.

From the beginning of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the European Union and the US have introduced sanctions against Russia and frozen its assets in the bloc. They have also agreed to halt Russian banks’ access to European financial markets.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Western sanctions would cause problems for Russia but would be solvable as Moscow had reduced its dependence on foreign imports.

China has denounced the sanctions imposed by the Western countries on Russia over Ukraine and has called them “illegal,” while blaming Washington for escalating tensions between the two former Soviet neighbors.

From the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Chinese officials have called on the parties involved in the crisis to exercise restraint and avoid escalating the situation any further.

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