Russia and China have put on a united front as the country’s leaders met in Beijing ahead of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, with the two looking to present themselves as a counterweight to the US and its allies.
China said it supported Russia’s demands for security guarantees from the West, as both countries called on NATO to turn its back on “Cold War approaches”.
It comes as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed US claims that Moscow is planning a fake attack to justify an invasion of Ukraine as “nonsense”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics and talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Mr Xi said China and Russia resolutely support each other when it comes to defending key interests, while Mr Putin praised the “unprecedented” close relations between the two.
Mr Putin’s presence at the games makes him the most high-profile guest in attendance, following a decision by the US, UK and others to not send officials in protest over China’s human rights abuses and treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
In televised remarks, the Russian leader praised the close economic ties between the two countries, highlighting a new contract to supply China with 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year from eastern Russia.
The broadcast aired in Moscow showed both world leaders, neither one wearing a mask, sitting opposite each across a large table in a Beijing state guesthouse, surrounded by masked aides.
Russia and China called for NATO to halt its expansion, as they signed a joint statement with the intention “to resist the interference of external forces”.
Moscow has come out in support of Beijing’s stance on Taiwan and said: “The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan.”
Russia and China also expressed concerns about Japanese plans to dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the ocean.
Both countries said they wanted to see further steps taken to lower the risk of nuclear war – but added that they condemned the creation of AUKUS and other military blocs in the Asia-Pacific region.
The AUKUS partnership, announced last year, saw the UK, Australia and US form a trilateral security pact to develop and deploy nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western military presence in the Pacific region amid growing concern over China.
The two countries had previously coordinated their positions on Ukraine during a meeting between their foreign ministers, Wang Yi and Mr Lavrov, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Thousands of Russian troops have massed near the border of Ukraine, raising fears of an invasion – something Russia has denied planning, but it has called on the US and its allies to provide a binding pledge that NATO won’t expand into Ukraine.