From left to right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh pose for a photo during a regional security summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Thursday. Kremlin Pool Photo by Alexander Demyanchuk/Sputnik/EPA
Sept. 15 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping were to meet one-on-one Thursday in Uzbekistan during a regional security summit.
The two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan’s second-largest city, will also include leaders from India and other Asian nations. Moscow and Beijing have said Putin and Xi would meet to discuss the war in Ukraine.
The SCO is a regional security group that includes Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran and other countries in the region. It was formed primarily to counter Western influence.
Putin was said to be prioritizing his meeting with Xi above all others, commenting beforehand that the summit is happening at a time of large-scale political changes.
The summit comes not long after Russia and China engaged in military exercises this month and in August. The drills featured aerial maneuvers, artillery fire and signal communications to demonstrate a spirit of “international military cooperation,” according to the Russian defense ministry. The drills involved more than 50,000 soldiers.
The Russian flag is seen at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine seven months ago, Beijing has been largely neutral in its position on the war, but the two countries are key allies. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Thursday’s summit in Uzbekistan also marks the first trip outside China that Xi has made in more than two years. His last trip beyond Chinese borders occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also Xi’s first meeting with Putin since they sat down in Beijing in February before Russia invaded Ukraine. At the time, the pair said they have a partnership with “no limits.”
Xi, who is seeking a third consecutive term as president, visited Kazakhstan on Wednesday on his way to Uzbekistan.
China has maintained a neutral stance on Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, which has been going for seven months and has killed thousands of people. Beijing has taken no punitive action against Moscow, but also has not provided any military aid.
Some analysts say Russia is seeking to shore up alliances after suffering devastating losses in the war, including the deaths of at least 50,000 soldiers. Thousands of tanks, equipment and weapons have also been destroyed, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
A recent Ukrainian counteroffensive in Ukraine’s south and northeast has also been trouble for Russian forces. Ukraine says it has retaken thousands of square miles of territory from Russia over the past several days and driven Russian troops out of other areas.
Over the past week, Chinese and Russian warships were observed conducting drills in the Sea of Japan, a further sign of the increasing cooperation.