Beijing needs to understand that Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the “wrong side of history,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says.
Freeland’s comments Monday come as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow for a three-day visit in the nation that’s at war with its neighbour, Ukraine.
That full-scale conflict, which Putin began more than a year ago, continues to play out, and Beijing has asserted itself as a potential peace-broker between the two parties.
“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an illegal and barbaric act. The people responsible for that invasion are war criminals. Everyone in the world has a responsibility to be very clear about that and to speak out about that,” Freeland told reporters in Oshawa, Ont.
“I would say all the countries in the world have an absolutely clear interest in Putin’s war failing because Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is the strongest challenge in a generation to the rules-based international order, and that rules-based international order is something all the countries of the world depend on.
I’m not going to anticipate what President Xi will say or do in Moscow, but China and China’s leadership needs to understand the stakes here, and needs to understand that Vladimir Putin is on the wrong side of history.”
Russia and China have described Xi’s three-day trip as an opportunity to deepen their “no-limits friendship.” China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy, and as a partner in standing up to what both see as U.S. domination of global affairs.
China last month called for a ceasefire and peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cautiously welcomed Beijing’s involvement, but the overture fizzled.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Monday that China’s attempts to broker peace in Ukraine will likely just help Russia re-arm and prolong the conflict.
“Make no mistake, the Russian regime is looking to buy time to resupply, recruit and re-attack,” Joly said.
“A ceasefire not predicated on Russia’s withdrawal of their troops from Ukrainian territory would only serve Putin’s agenda by freezing the conflict before his losses become even greater.”
Canada and the other countries in the G7 have said since last October that they will support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” with humanitarian and military aid.
Yet developing countries have lamented feeling forced to choose sides between Russia’s invasion and the West’s opposition to it.
Beijing has argued along the same lines, and accused Western powers of escalating the conflict through weapons shipments.
“Our position has always been that dialogue and negotiation provides the fundamental way out for the Ukraine crisis, and that the international community needs to play a constructive role,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Monday.
Wang also rejected reports that the U.S. State Department had found Chinese-made ammunition in Ukraine.
“It is the U.S., not China, that has been sending weapons to the battlefields in Ukraine. The U.S. needs to stop fuelling the fight with more weaponry and fanning the flame, stop pointing fingers at other countries or seeking to coerce and intimidate them, and play a constructive role,” Wang said.
“President Xi’s visit is a trip for friendship, a trip for co-operation and a trip for peace.”
— with files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press