KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday (Feb 24) he was planning to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after Beijing called for urgent peace talks to end the war in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy also said he was doing his best to prevent Chinese arms supplies to Russia to avoid any risk of “World War III”.
“I am planning to meet with Xi Jinping,” he told reporters as Ukraine marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
“This will be important for world security.”
Zelenskyy did not say when or where he was planning to meet Xi, but expressed hope that China would support a “just peace” and Ukraine.
“I really want to believe that China will not supply weapons to Russia. It is very important for me,” Zelenskyy said.
Earlier on Friday, China called for urgent peace talks as it released a position paper on ending the war in Ukraine.
But several Western powers rebuffed the proposals and also warned against Beijing’s close ties to Moscow.
Beijing has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the conflict, while maintaining close ties with strategic ally Russia.
Responding to Beijing’s new position paper, Moscow said it “highly values” China’s contribution but insisted any conflict settlement must recognise Russia’s control over four Ukrainian regions it annexed.
Zelenskyy also said on Friday he was convinced that only a country whose territory is under attack can initiate “any peace initiatives”.
The West, which has imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Russia and boosted humanitarian aid and arms supplies for Ukraine, unveiled more help Friday.
The United States announced sweeping sanctions aimed not just at Russia but also at 200 individuals and entities across Europe, Asia and the Middle East supporting Moscow’s war.
After a video call, G7 allies warned: “Third-countries or other international actors who seek to evade or undermine our measures” must “cease providing material support to Russia’s war, or face severe costs”.
Washington’s new aid package came days after President Joe Biden arrived in Kyiv for a historic visit and pledged new arms deliveries.
However, Biden on Friday ruled out providing the F-16 fighter jets Ukraine has requested, at least for the time being, telling ABC News in an interview that Zelenskyy “doesn’t need F-16s now”.
“Look, we’re sending him what our seasoned military thinks he needs now. He needs tanks, he needs artillery, he needs air defence, including Himars,” Biden said.
“There are things we’re sending him to put him in a position to make gains this spring and summer going into the fall.”
The EU also agreed to a fresh round of sanctions, and along with contributions from Sweden and Portugal, Germany said it had managed to assemble a battalion of modern Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine.
The World Bank separately announced an extra US$2.5 billion for Ukraine to support essential services and core government functions.
On Friday, after a minute’s silence at the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced Russia’s military action, saying it had made life for Ukrainians a “living hell”.