(CNN) – Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his support for Moscow on “sovereignty and security” in a phone call with his counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, as he maintained his support for the two-state union despite the global backlash against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On his 69th birthday, Xi also pledged to deepen strategic coordination between the two countries, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
A separate reading of the Kremlin said the two leaders stressed that their countries’ relations “were at a critical stage” and reaffirmed their commitment to “consistently deepen the comprehensive partnership.”
The call is believed to be the second time the two leaders have spoken since Russia invaded Ukraine. They also spoke just days after Moscow launched what it insists it calls a “special military operation.”
China also refrained from referring to Russia’s actions as an invasion and agreed a fine line on the issue. It was presented as an appeal for peace and the defense of world order, while refusing to denounce Russia’s actions. It also used its state media to mimic the Kremlin’s lines by blaming the United States and NATO for the crisis.
During the call on Wednesday, Xi stressed that China has always “independently assessed the situation” in Ukraine and called on “all parties” to push for a “proper solution to the Ukraine crisis,” echoing language he used in a March call with the US president. Joe Biden.
He said China was “ready to continue playing its role” in promoting a “proper solution” for Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s summary of the invitation took this stance a step further, saying: “The Chinese president referred to the legitimacy of Russia’s actions to protect core national interests in the face of challenges to its security caused by external forces.”
China’s lack of oversight over Russia’s war in Ukraine has strained Beijing’s strained relations with the United States and its allies.
US officials have repeatedly called on countries to condemn Russia’s actions and have warned their Chinese counterparts not to help Moscow. During the call in March between Xi and Biden, the US president explained the consequences if China provided material support, following US information that Moscow had asked Beijing for military assistance, a claim both deny.
Wednesday’s call was also an opportunity for Putin and Xi to check on their growing business ties.
Earlier this year, weeks before the Russian invasion, the two leaders said in a face-to-face meeting that their countries had an “unlimited” partnership and pledged to boost trade.
“Since the beginning of this year, bilateral relations have maintained a strong momentum of development in the face of global upheavals and transformations,” Xi said in the call on Wednesday.
“The Chinese side is willing to work with the Russian side to push forward the long-term and steady development of bilateral pragmatic cooperation,” Xi said, noting the “steady progress” of their trade relations and the opening of the first bridge last week. From the cross-border highway on the Amur River.
Kremlin readings said that the two sides agreed to expand cooperation in the fields of energy, finance, manufacturing and other areas, “taking into account the global economic situation complicated by the policy of illegal sanctions implemented by the West.”
The countries also pledged to work together to enhance communication and coordination in international organizations such as the United Nations, where countries often vote as a single bloc.
Xi said in a commentary that the two countries’ common goal is to counter what they see as the United States’ global hegemony.
The call was not the first time that Xi and Putin – two powerful men linked with mutual mistrust in the West – had become involved in each other’s birthdays.
In 2013, Xi gave Putin a birthday cake and the two drank vodka together to celebrate the Russian leader’s 61st birthday during a conference in Indonesia. Xi later celebrated his 66th birthday at a summit in Tajikistan in 2019 with Putin who surprised him with ice cream, cake and champagne.
It is also believed that their personal relationship, in which Xi described Putin as his “closest friend and best friend”, reinforces the dynamic of their domestically solid relationship.
Summing up the two leaders’ recent contact, the Kremlin noted that the conversation took place in a “traditional, friendly and warm atmosphere.”