Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Russia next week at the invitation of his Russian counterpart in a move that will demonstrate growing cooperation between the two all-weather allies in the face of Western pressures.
The high-stakes three-day visit beginning on Monday comes as Beijing has offered to broker peace between Moscow and Kiev and end the devastating war in Ukraine that completed one year recently.
China’s foreign ministry, in a statement, said Xi and Vladimir Putin would have “in-depth exchanges on bilateral relations and important international and regional issues of mutual concern” during the three-day visit.
"At the invitation of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22," read the ministry statement.
It called Xi's trip "a visit for peace" that aims to "practice true multilateralism... improve global governance and make contributions to the development and progress of the world".
The Kremlin also confirmed the report on the visit and said the two leaders would talk about "strategic cooperation” between Moscow and Beijing.
"During the talks, they will discuss topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China," the Kremlin said, adding, "A number of important bilateral documents will be signed.”
China's offer to be a mediator in the Ukraine war has been met with skepticism by the US and its European allies amid rising military and trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
China's foreign minister Qin Gang urged Kiev and Moscow on Thursday to restart peace talks "as soon as possible," while Kiev said the call raised the importance of Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Beijing "hopes that all parties will keep calm, exercise restraint, resume peace talks as soon as possible and return to the track of political settlement", Qin told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call.
"China is concerned that the crisis could escalate and get out of control," Qin said, hoping the two sides would "retain hope for dialogue and negotiation".
Russia and China struck a "no limits" partnership in February 2022, when Putin attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, weeks before Moscow launched its military campaign in Ukraine.
Russia launched the operation on February 24, 2022 to "de-Nazify" the country over the threat of the former Soviet republic joining the NATO military alliance.
Since the outbreak of the war, the United States and Ukraine's other Western allies have sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems.
Western countries have also imposed a slew of economic sanctions on Moscow. The Kremlin has repeatedly warned that it risks prolonging the war that recently completed one year.
Slovakia, Poland to send MiG-29s to Ukraine
On Friday, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said the Slovak government had approved sending MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, stepping up its military assistance to Kiev.
Slovakia is the second country to send war planes to Kiev after Poland, which announced on Thursday it would do so.
Its fleet of 11 MiG-29 planes was retired last summer and most of them are not in operational condition. It will send those that are operational and the rest will go for spare parts.
On Thursday, Poland announced it would send Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in coming days, making it the first of Kiev's allies to provide such aircraft.
Slovakia will also supply part of its KUB air-defense system, Heger said.
The Kremlin said fighter jets given to Ukraine by Poland and Slovakia would be destroyed.
"The supply of this military equipment -- as we have repeatedly said -- will not change the outcome of the special military operation... Of course, all this equipment will be destroyed," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Brazil's Lula to visit China late March
In another development on Friday, the Chinese foreign ministry said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would visit China at the end of the month with the aim of pushing the "strategic partnership" between the two sides "to a new level."
"At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Federative Republic of Brazil will pay a state visit to China from March 26 to 31," ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.
Stressing that the visit would "usher in a new era and a new future for China-Brazil relations at the head-of-state level," Hua said the talks would "push the China-Brazil comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level, and make new contributions to the promotion of regional and global stability and prosperity."
The visit, Lula's first to China since taking office in January, is expected to break Brazil's international isolation after four years under the septuagenarian incumbent's far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
China is Brazil's top trade partner, with $152.6 billion in bilateral trade last year. The United States is a distant second, with $88.8 billion.