Putin shamed as US official warns China is 'embarrassed' by Russia's military operations

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Vladimir Putin has suffered a massive humiliation after it was claimed China is “embarrassed by the conduct of Russian military operations” as the Chinese Premier attacked the “irresponsibility” of nuclear threats. Li Keqiang took part in the East Asia Summit along with US President Joe Biden on Sunday, and “spoke rather extensively about China’s policy towards Ukraine”, according to a US administration official.

The official, briefing reporters ahead of a summit between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, said Li “put clear emphasis on sovereignty, on the irresponsibility of nuclear threats, the need to ensure that nuclear weapons are not used in the way that some have suggested”.

Russia has threatened the use of nuclear weapons since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, with Putin warning just weeks ago that he wasn’t “bluffing”.

The West has frequently accused Russia of making irresponsible statements on the possible use of nuclear weapons, while Moscow has hit back by accusing the West of “provocative” nuclear rhetoric.

But the US official warned there is “undeniably some discomfort in Beijing about what we’ve seen in terms of reckless rhetoric and activity on the part of Russia”.

They said: “I think it is also undeniable that China is probably both surprised and even a little bit embarrassed by the conduct of Russian military operations.”

The latest comments will only increase speculation about China’s growing displeasure at Russia’s war in Ukraine and suggestions Beijing is uncomfortable with the nuclear rhetoric from its key strategic partner.

In September, Putin surprised the world with a highly unexpected public admission that Chinese President Xi Jinping had “questions” and “concerns” over the war in Ukraine.

During a meeting between the pair in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the Russian President said that he highly appreciated “the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis.”

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He was quoted as saying: “We understand your questions and your concerns in this regard and during today’s meeting, of course, we will explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have talked about it before.”

The apparent acknowledgement of tensions was in complete contrast from February when just before the invasion of Ukraine, Putin travelled to the Winter Olympics in China to proclaim a “no-limits partnership” with Xi.

Revealingly in September, after the first face-to-face meeting between Xi and Putin since the invasion, China also refused to make any public statement about Ukraine.

Putin was keen to talk up his allegiance with China and according to the Chinese readout on state broadcaster CCTV, he said: “The world is undergoing many changes right now; the only constant is the friendship and mutual trust between Russia and China.”

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But in China’s version, there wasn’t a single mention of “Ukraine” in the readout, and it also failed to refer to the “no-limits partnership.”

“Since the beginning of this year, China and Russia have maintained effective strategic communication,” Xi said, according to CCTV. The two countries have closely coordinated on the international stage to maintain the basic norms of international relations.”

Putin was hit by further humiliation later in the month after close ally Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered Vladimir Putin to return all “occupied” land – including Crimea – who insisted the Black Sea peninsula should be returned to its “rightful owners”.

When asked if Russia should be allowed to keep some of the territory it’s taken from Ukraine since it invaded in February and if that should be “part of a solution to this — to this conflict”, he replied through a translator: “No, and undoubtedly no.

“When we talk about reciprocal agreement, this is what we mean. If a peace is going to be established in Ukraine, of course, the returning of the land that was invaded will become really important.

“This is what is expected. This is what is wanted. Mr Putin has taken certain steps. We have taken certain steps. The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine.”

Mr Erdogan was also asked if Russia “should be allowed to keep Crimea”, to which he replied: “Since 2014, we have been talking to my dear friend Putin about this, and this is what we have requested from him.

“We asked him to return Crimea to its rightful owners. These are our descendants at the same time, the people who are living there.

“If you were to take this step forward, if you could leave us, you would also be relieving the Crimean Tatars and Ukraine as well. That’s what we have always been saying. But since then, unfortunately, no step has been taken forward.”



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