Key events

China state media coverage praise strong relationship with Russia

Helen Davidson

Helen Davidson

China’s state media has extensively and positively covered the Xi Putin meeting.

Most coverage has focused on Xi’s comments and talking about how strong the relationship is. None of the pieces mentioned the recent ICC arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.

China Daily reported Xi saying:

The two sides have set a fine example for developing a new model of major country relations featuring mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.

Official news agency Xinhua said exchanges between the two leaders were “the compass and anchor of China-Russia relations”, which were “brimming with new dynamism and vitality” under the guidance of Xi and Putin. Multiple reports plastered the masthead’s online front, and a separate page dedicated to the visit.

The Global Times’s news report noted the “high standard welcoming ceremony” arranged by the Russians as an expression of “warm hospitality”.

It cited experts from both countries saying the visit was both symbolic and globally significant, “as it will not only greatly promote the development of bilateral ties, but also bring hope and confidence for a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis”.

The tabloid’s reporters also vox-popped Russians on the Moscow streets, the article said, finding that many considered China to be Russia’s “good friend and neighbour”.

In an accompanying editorial, the Global Times said the visit “demonstrates a right path of state-to-state interactions”.

We have every reason to believe that this visit will further elevate the China-Russia relations which are already at historical high. It will not only bring tangible benefits to the two peoples but also to promoting peace and development for the region and the world, as determined by the nature of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation for a new era.

The Global Times was also careful to characterise the war as a “crisis”, in which Ukraine was “directly fighting with Russia”. It pushed China’s 12 point peace plan, and cited analysts to promote the country’s ability to be a mediator rather than the US which had “lost” a position of neutrality and justice.

Russian cruise missiles destroyed in Crimea blast, Ukraine says

Ukraine’s defence ministry has said an explosion in the Crimean city of Dzhankoi destroyed Russian cruise missiles intended for use by Moscow’s Black Sea fleet.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, circulated footage he said reportedly showed the train station area in the city. The footage showed a loud single fiery blast followed by a plume of smoke in the night sky. It was not possible to verify his claim.

Russian cruise missiles “Kalibr NK” were destroyed in Dzhankoi, Crimea, during their transportation by rail – @DI_Ukraine

It is reported that this video is from Dzhankoi. The voice says it’s the train station area.

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) March 20, 2023

The ministry’s main intelligence directorate said on Monday:

An explosion in Dzhankoi city in the north of temporarily occupied Crimea destroyed Russian Kalibr-KN cruise missiles as they were being transported by rail.”

It did not claim responsibility.

It said the missiles, designed to be launched from surface ships of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, had an operational range of more than 2,500km (1,550 miles) on land and 375km at sea.

Read more here:

Welcome and summary

Hello and welcome back to our continuing live coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. My name is Natasha May and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments for the next while.

Our top story this morning: Russian cruise missiles intended for use by Moscow’s Black Sea fleet have been destroyed in an explosion in the city of Dzhankoi in the north of the Crimean peninsula, Ukraine’s defence ministry has said.

The explosion comes in the midst of the Chinese President’s three day visit to Moscow. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are set to hold formal negotiations today after their informal talks Monday left with the pair calling each other “dear friend.”

Xi told Putin Monday that China is ready to “continue to play a constructive role in promoting the political settlement” of the war, according to official Chinese agency Xinhua.

Despite the Xi attempting to play the peacemaker, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been critical of the visit, which he says “suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the president accountable for the atrocities committed to Ukraine.”

We’ll have more on these stories shortly. In the meantime here are the other key recent developments:

  • Russia plans to hold an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council in early April on what it says is “the real situation” of Ukrainian children taken to Russia, the Associated Press is reporting. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes related to the children’s abduction but Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a news conference Monday the issue was “totally overblown.”

  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, broadcaster NHK has reported. Kishida has already left India and is on his way to Ukraine, according to unnamed sources cited in the report.

  • Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, has written to Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, to warn that the Ukrainian army is planning an imminent offensive aimed at cutting off his forces from the main body of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. In the letter published by his press service, Prigozhin said the “large-scale attack” was planned for late March or the start of April. Separately, Prigozhin also intensified his attack on Shoigu, calling the minister’s son-in-law a “scumbag blogger”.

  • The prosecutor for the ICC has said the world needs to “have the stamina” to enforce international law by trying those accused of war crimes in Ukraine, four days after the court took action against Vladimir Putin. Karim Khan also challenged the Kremlin to allow Ukrainian children abducted to Russia to return home, after his court issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Russia’s children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, on the grounds that they had overseen the forcible transfer of thousands of children.

  • EU ministers have reached a deal to supply Ukraine with 1m rounds of shells to bolster its defences against Russia’s invasion. EU foreign and defence ministers are still fine-tuning a €1bn plan for the joint procurement of ammunition by the Brussels-based European Defence Agency. Such an agreement would be a significant moment for the EU, which has limited experience of the joint purchase of military supplies. So far, about 15 countries are expected to take part in the voluntary initiative.

  • The US will send Ukraine $350m in weapons and equipment, Blinken has announced. The latest aid package includes a large amount of various types of ammunition, such as rockets for the high-mobility artillery rocket systems (Himars), the US secretary of state said in a statement.

  • Norway has delivered eight Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a spokesperson for its armed forces has said. Norway, which shares a border with Russia in the Arctic, said it would also send four special-purpose tanks from its armoured engineering and bridge layer category, the exact selection depending on what Ukraine needs the most.

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