China’s envoy Li Hui due to start visit to Ukraine, Russia

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A Chinese envoy was preparing Monday to visit Ukraine and Russia, but there appeared to be little chance of a breakthrough to end the 15-month-long invasion.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government says it is neutral and wants to play a role as mediator, but has given Moscow political support. Beijing released a proposed peace plan in February, but that was largely dismissed by Ukraine’s allies, who insist Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces must withdraw.

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Li Hui, a former ambassador to Moscow, also will visit Poland, France and Germany, according to the foreign ministry. It gave no other schedule details.

Political analysts see little hope for a peace agreement because neither Ukraine nor Russia is ready to stop fighting. They say by sending an envoy, China appears to be trying to neutralize criti-cism of its friendship with Putin and to split European allies away from Washington.

Xi spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by phone in April, setting the stage for the diplomatic push.

The trip “expresses China’s commitment to promoting peace and negotiations,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Friday. Wang said China wishes to prevent an “escalation of the situation.”

Beijing previously avoided involvement in conflicts between other countries but appears to be asserting itself as a global diplomatic force after arranging talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March that led them to restore diplomatic relations following a seven-year break.

China has friendly relations with Moscow as well as economic leverage as the biggest buyer of Russian oil and gas after the United States and its allies cut off most purchases.

Xi’s government sees Moscow as a diplomatic partner in opposing US domination of global affairs. Beijing has refused to criticize the February 2022 invasion and used its status as one of five permanent United Nations Security Council members to deflect diplomatic attacks on Russia.

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