BREAKING: Chinese leader Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week

Cnn staff

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“At the invitation of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement on the ministry’s website Friday.

It will be Xi’s first visit to Russia since Putin invaded Ukraine last year.

The Kremlin confirmed the visit would take place, saying the two leaders would discuss “strategic cooperation.”

“During the talks, topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China will be discussed,” the Kremlin said Friday.

“An exchange of views is also planned in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena,” the Kremlin added. “A number of important bilateral documents will be signed.”

Some context: The visit comes as China tries to present itself as a neutral peace broker on Ukraine, but the effort has been met with skepticism in Western capitals due to Beijing’s growing partnership with Moscow.

China has refused to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine — or referred to it as an “invasion,” instead blaming the advance of NATO for provoking the conflict.

It has also provided diplomatic support for Moscow, while expanding trade and military ties to its northern neighbor.

Western officials have also raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, an accusation denied by Beijing.

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