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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman reacts as she walks through her neighbourhood past apartment blocks destroyed in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Mariupol, Russian-controlled Ukraine, February 15, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

BEIJING (Reuters) – China wants to prevent the Russia-Ukraine crisis from getting out of control and said on Friday dialogue and negotiation are the only viable ways to resolve the crisis.

On the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China called in a 12-point foreign ministry paper for a comprehensive ceasefire and a gradual de-escalation.

The ministry paper is largely a reiteration of China’s line since Russia launched what it calls its “special military operation” on Feb. 24 last year.

China has refrained from condemning its ally Russia or referring to its intervention in its neighbour as an “invasion” and it has also criticised Western sanctions on Russia.

“Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiralling out of control,” the ministry said in its paper.

The war entered its second year with no end in sight and Russia isolated at the United Nations, while G7 leaders are set to coordinate on more help for Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver a “peace speech” later on Friday to mark the anniversary in which he is likely to urge peace while avoiding condemnation of Russia. The foreign ministry said it had no information on a speech.

Ukraine has consistently rejected calls for a ceasefire while Russian troops occupy its territory, saying any pause in fighting would enable Russia to regroup its troops.

The ambassador of the European Union to China, Jorge Toledo, said China’s paper was not a peace proposal but the EU would study it closely, though he noted EU concern that the paper did not mention an aggressor.

Toledo, speaking at a briefing for reporters in Beijing, said China had a special responsibility to defend and uphold the values of the United Nations Charter.

At the same briefing, Ukraine’s charge d’affaires called China’s paper “a good sign”, adding that Ukraine expected China to be more active in its political support.

The Ukrainian envoy, Zhanna Leshchynska, said Ukraine hoped China would also urge Russia to stop the war and withdraw its troops.


Asked to what extent she believed China had maintained neutrality in the conflict, Leshchynska said: “If it is neutrality, then China should talk to both sides, Russia, and Ukraine. Now we see the Chinese side mostly talking to Russia, but not with Ukraine.”

Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said critical comments on the paper from some diplomats had no basis and were aimed at smearing China.

“It would be better if they reflected on whether they have done anything for the political resolution of the Ukraine crisis,” Wang told a regular briefing.

Since the war began weeks after Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership, Xi has spoken regularly with Russian President Vladimir Putin but not once with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Putin has signalled he will double down on the Ukraine conflict, despite major battlefield defeats in the past year, and has raised the spectre of nuclear weapons.

China said nuclear weapons must be avoided.

“Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought,” the foreign ministry said. “We oppose development, use of biological and chemical weapons by any country under any circumstances.”

Putin on Thursday hailed “new frontiers” in ties with China and signalled Xi would visit.

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet virtually on Friday with G7 leaders and Ukrainian leader Zelenskiy to mark the anniversary and announce new sanctions against those aiding Russia’s war effort, the White House said.

China said the only sanctions that should be imposed on Russia should be endorsed by the U.N. Security Council – where the Russians hold veto power – and unilateral sanctions and pressure “only create new problems”.

“China opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorised by the U.N. Security Council. Relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ against other countries.”

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