Ukraine’s Zelenskyy upbeat after talk with China’s Xi

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a “long and meaningful” phone call Wednesday, April 26, 2023, their first known contact since Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago, and Beijing appointed an envoy to pursue a “political settlement.”

The hour-long call came two months after Beijing, which has long been aligned with Russia, said it wanted to act as a mediator and a month after Xi visited Moscow. The call also coincided with indications that Ukraine is readying its forces for a spring counteroffensive.

Zelenskyy was upbeat about the conversation, which offered him the chance to insert his views into what had been a bilateral dialogue between Moscow and Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin is eager to keep Xi close as a counterweight to the United States, which has sided with Ukraine.

“I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelenskyy said on Facebook.

An official readout on his website called the conversation “productive” and said it leads the way toward “possible interaction with the aim of establishing a just and sustainable peace for Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy emphasized the need to regain all Ukrainian lands and stated, “There can be no peace at the expense of territorial compromises.” In an indirect reference to US reports that China had considered supplying weapons to Russia for its war, Zelenskyy’s office said he asked countries to refrain from doing so because “any support — even partial — is converted by Russia into the continuation of its aggression, into its further rejection of peace.”

China has said it won’t supply weapons to either side in the conflict.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing’s “core stance is to facilitate talks for peace,” announcing that an envoy — a former ambassador to Russia — would visit Ukraine to seek a “political settlement.”

The ministry’s statement struck a positive tone, giving a nod to Kyiv’s insistence that its territory cannot be broken up by Russia’s annexations and making clear that Beijing values its longstanding ties with Ukraine. / AP