Russia’s ally signals a desire to broker peace, but few are convinced that Beijing has either power or pure motivations in Kyiv.
Kyiv, Ukraine – Volodymyr, a gaunt 44-year-old, recently returned from the front lines of eastern Ukraine and now needs psychological help for his post-traumatic stress disorder.
A contusion makes him slightly stutter.
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He voraciously reads news from the cracked screen of his mobile phone – and has a firm opinion about recent headlines on the role of China, the only remaining heavy-weight partner in Russia’s corner, in the war.
“China prefers to stay away from this mess,” Volodymyr tells Al Jazeera, withholding his last name because he is still on active duty. “They’ll never openly support Russia.”
“Openly” is a keyword.
As the Russian-Ukrainian war approaches its 15th month, China still considers President Vladimir Putin an irreplaceable, “strategic” ally.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has remained the only global leader to maintain amicable ties with Putin – and has used China’s seat in the United Nations Security Council to repel diplomatic attacks on the Kremlin.
Xi has never denounced the war, rather calling it a “crisis”.
According to Ukrainian observers, Beijing’s position is full of ambivalence and omissions.
According to some, Xi sees the conflict through the prism of Taiwan, as China has long threatened to forcibly “unify” the self-governing island with the Communist mainland in ways that may be similar to how Russia “returned” Crimea.