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Russia’s war in Ukraine, Putin meets Xi, Kharkiv under attack

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As countries around the world ramped up sanctions on Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it became clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin still had a powerful friend in Xi Jinping.

This week, Xi is welcoming Putin to China for a two-day state visit — their fourth in-person meeting since Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine began.

The war has driven the two leaders and their economies closer together — with trade hitting record levels last year as Russia upped its imports of key commodities from China and Chinese buyers lapped up discounted Russian fuel.

The United States has said Chinese exports of products like machine tools and microelectronics are enabling Russia to bolster the defense industrial base powering its war in Ukraine, and official data show hefty increases in related goods that are consistent with those claims.

Sanctions drive economies closer: The European Union, the US and others across the world have imposed sanctions targeting Russian entities and the flow of goods to and from the warring country.

Despite these efforts to isolate Putin’s government and reduce its war coffers, Russia’s economy blew past expectations to grow by 3.6% in 2023, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.

China has emerged as a key economic lifeline and is now Russia’s top trade partner.

Governments warn against support for Russia’s war effort: White House officials in recent weeks have confronted China on what they believe is Beijing’s substantial support for Russia’s defense industrial base, including through exports like semiconductors, materials and machine tools they say are enabling Russia to ramp up production of tanks, munitions and armored vehicles.

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