Zelensky wants talks with China
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said on Thursday he would like to speak “directly” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as he urged Beijing to use its economic and political leverage to stop the conflict in his country.
In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Zelensky noted that he had not spoken to the Chinese leader since the start of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.
“I would like to talk directly. I had one conversation with [President] Xi Jinping that was a year ago,” he said. “Since the beginning of the large-scale aggression on February 24, we have asked officially for a conversation, but we (haven’t had) any conversation with China even though I believe that would be helpful.”
According to Zelensky, Xi is one of a handful of world leaders who have been to Ukraine “at least once,” adding that the Chinese president warmly recalled his ties with Kiev during a call between the two leaders last year.
Zelensky stressed that he wants to see China redefine its stance on Russia, but understands why Beijing is seeking a “balanced” approach.
“This is a war on our territory, they [Russia] came to invade. China, as a big and powerful country, could come down and sort of put the Russian Federation [in] a certain place,” he said. “Of course, I would really like China to review its attitude towards the Russian Federation.”
Zelensky said he believes China has the means to make Russia stop its offensive.
“I’m sure that without the Chinese market for the Russian Federation, Russia would be feeling complete economic isolation,” he said. “That’s something that China can do – to limit the trade [with Russia] until the war is over.”
The Ukrainian president also warned of the long-term global consequences of the conflict, which he predicted will harm food and energy security and also slash Chinese exports. According to Zelensky, due to the ongoing hostilities, many countries are spending more on food, fuel and weapons rather than other goods.
“The people would have to pay for energy resources rather than for products coming from China … Exports from China would be decreasing. That’s 100 per cent,” he reiterated.
China has refused to condemn Russia for the Ukraine conflict and has opposed sweeping economic sanctions that the West has slapped on Moscow. Beijing has also blamed NATO expansion for the tensions between Western powers and Russia, adding that the West has to “understand Russia’s legitimate security concerns” and “build a sustainable European security system through negotiation.”
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.