Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had a “long and meaningful” phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 26.
The conversation, the first between the two leaders since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, sees Beijing continuing to play a more active role in the war following its 12-point peace plan in February.
“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,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter, without mentioning any further details.
Beijing, which has not condemned the invasion, will send a special envoy to Ukraine and other states to “discuss the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis with all stakeholders in detail", according to China Central Television, Russian media Tass reported.
In addition, Xi stated that China wants to “facilitate the peace process and a ceasefire as soon as possible”, claiming Beijing won’t observe the war quietly and won’t “fuel the fire”. He emphasised that China also won’t “take advantage of the crisis to profit.”
Zelenskiy previously invited Xi to Kyiv and said Ukraine is open to discussions with China. The phone call was instigated by Kyiv, according to Yu Jun from China's foreign ministry.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the hour-long call, stating: "The Ukrainian authorities and their Western minders have already shown their ability to mess up any peace initiatives," the Moscow Times reported.
Beijing’s 12-point peace plan was criticised by Ukraine’s allies for favouring Moscow, with no mention of Russian troops withdrawing from Ukrainian territory, a key component of Kyiv’s own peace formula.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbocks said a Russian troop withdrawal must be a condition of any peace deal. "A just peace cannot mean that the aggressor gets rewarded," she said at a security forum in Munich in February.
Moreover, Xi’s decision to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin a month before calling Zelenskiy led to further accusations that China is not the impartial force it claims to be.
Timothy Ash, senior sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, believes that Beijing is only pushing for peace to ensure Putin isn’t ousted from power and replaced by a pro-Western government.
“Xi would love to push a peace deal on Putin and Ukraine, but its only real interest here is saving Putin; it’s not really interested in viewing all this through any Ukrainian prism,” Ash wrote in March.