By Anastasia Lyrchikova
MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia and China should stand firm in rejecting Western interference and defending each other’s security interests, presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping agreed in a video call on Wednesday.
Their conversation, eight days after Putin spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden in a similar format, underscored how shared hostility to the West is bringing Moscow and Beijing closer together.
“At present, certain international forces under the guise of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ are interfering in the internal affairs of China and Russia, and brutally trampling on international law and recognized norms of international relations,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.
“China and Russia should increase their joint efforts to more effectively safeguard the security interests of both parties.”
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that Xi had offered support to Putin for his push to obtain binding security guarantees for Russia from the West, saying he understood Moscow’s concerns.
He said the pair also expressed their “negative view” of the creation of new military alliances such as the AUKUS partnership between Australia, Britain and the United States and the Indo-Pacific “Quad” of Australia, India, Japan and the United States.
The call highlighted the ways in which Russia and China are drawing on each other for mutual support at a time of high tension in their relations with the West. China is under pressure over human rights and Russia is accused of threatening behaviour towards Ukraine.
The Kremlin said Putin briefed Xi on his conversation with Biden, in which the U.S. president warned Russia against invading Ukraine – which Moscow denies it is planning – and Putin set out his demand for security pledges.
“A new model of cooperation has been formed between our countries, based, among other things, on such principles as non-interference in internal affairs and respect for each other’s interests,” Putin told Xi.
He said he looked forward to meeting Xi at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February – an event that the White House last week said U.S. government officials would boycott because of China’s human rights “atrocities” against Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang.
“I would like to note that we invariably support each other on issues of international sports cooperation, including rejection of any attempts to politicize sports and the Olympic movement,” Putin said.
Putin has used Russia’s partnership with China as a way of balancing U.S. influence while striking lucrative deals, especially on energy. He and Xi this year agreed to extend a 20-year friendship and cooperation treaty.
The Russian leader said bilateral trade was up 31% in the first 11 months of this year to $123 billion, and the two countries aimed to exceed $200 billion in the near future.
He said China was becoming an international centre for production of Russia’s Sputnik and Sputnik Light vaccines against COVID-19, with contracts signed with six manufacturers to make more than 150 million doses.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Woo and Ella Cao in Beijing; Writing by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Gareth Jones)