Russian fluent speaker Li Hui is the most senior Chinese official to visit Ukraine since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
China’s top envoy has begun a tour of Europe that will take him first to Ukraine and eventually to Russia, in a trip Beijing says is aimed at discussing a “political settlement” of the crisis. in Ukraine.
Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs since 2019 and a former ambassador to Russia, will also visit Poland, France and Germany on a multiday trip, the foreign ministry announced last week, “for in deep communication with different parties for a political. settlement of the crisis in Ukraine”.
Li, a fluent Russian speaker, is the most senior Chinese official to visit Ukraine since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022, and his trip could coincide with the start of a long-awaited counter-offensive in Ukraine to regain the territory that was seized and occupied. through Russia.
The visit comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping held a phone call last month with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the first known wartime call between the two leaders. .
Zelenskyy described the one-hour call as “long and meaningful”, while Xi said China’s “core position is to promote peace through talks”.
On the first anniversary of Russia’s all-out invasion, China released a 12-point proposal for peace — China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis — that was met with some skepticism in Western capitals because on Beijing’s relations with Russia. It urged “both sides” to agree to a gradual detente and abandon the “Cold War mentality”.
Beijing did not explicitly condemn Moscow for the invasion, which came less than three weeks after the two countries pledged an “unlimited” partnership. In March, Xi traveled to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two men signed an agreement to take relations between their two countries to a “new time”.
Li spent his entire diplomatic career dealing with the Soviet Union, Russia and the states that emerged after its fall since joining the Department of Soviet and East European Affairs at the foreign ministry in 1975.
Since Xi-Zelenskyy’s call, several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have traveled to Beijing and urged China to take a more proactive approach. role in preventing Moscow’s actions.
Kyiv rejects the idea of any territorial concessions to Russia and says it wants every inch of its land. Russia invaded and then annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 – a move widely condemned at the time – and in September last year, announced it had annexed four more eastern Ukrainian regions.