Putin in trade push on final day of China trip

Russian leader Vladimir Putin was in the northeastern city of Harbin on Friday, the final day of a visit aiming to promote crucial trade with China and win greater support for his war effort in Ukraine.

Putin arrived Thursday on his first trip abroad since his March re-election, meeting President Xi Jinping for talks in which the leaders framed their nations' ties as a stabilising force in a chaotic world.

China and Russia's strategic partnership has only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine, and Beijing has rebuffed Western claims that it is aiding Moscow's war effort.

China has also offered a critical lifeline to Russia's isolated economy, with trade booming since the invasion and hitting $240 billion in 2023, according to Chinese customs figures.

Putin's trip to Harbin is part of efforts to enhance that economic relationship.

Lying just a few hundred kilometres from the border with Russia, the city has long served as a key hub for cross-border trade and cultural exchange.

The Russian president will attend the opening ceremony of a Russia-China trade expo on Friday, Moscow's state news agency TASS reported, and will be accompanied by Han Zheng, China's vice president.

Putin will hold a press conference with Russian media later in the day.

 Western criticism 

The Russian leader's arrival came hours after he hailed his country's troops for advancing on "all fronts" on the battlefield in Ukraine, following a major new ground assault.

And the Kremlin said Russia and China had agreed to oppose "further escalation" of the conflict in Ukraine on Thursday.

China has dismissed claims it is aiding Russia's war in Ukraine and insisted that the West is exacerbating the...

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