China to host Belarusian leader amid Ukraine tensions

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, was expected to arrive in Beijing on Tuesday for a state visit that will be watched closely for signs that China could change its stance on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The three-day trip is a reminder that the war in Ukraine has far-reaching effects on global alliances. China, which has long retained close ties with Lukashenko, said the visit is an “opportunity to promote the further development of all-around cooperation between the two countries.” But it comes after U.S. officials warned that China was considering sending military assistance to Russia.

China has called the U.S. allegations a smear campaign, saying it is committed to promoting peace talks.

But hosting Lukashenko illustrates the depth of Beijing’s ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his allies.

Lukashenko’s government, meanwhile, has strongly backed Russian leader , and allowed its territory to be used as a staging ground for the initial invasion of Ukraine a year ago. This stance left Belarus even more isolated in Europe, where it faces sanctions from the European Union over both its role in the war and its repression of the country’s domestic opposition. The country continues to host Russian troops, warplanes and other weapons.

In a recent interview with Chinese media, Lukashenko said that now is “a unique situation … to put a stop to the conflict.” The interview was first released last week, but bits of it were shared online again on Monday night by Belarusian state media.

Chinese state media gave no word on his arrival or any activities in Beijing on Tuesday.

Beijing claims a neutral stance in the year-old war, but has also said it has a “no-limits friendship” with Russia and has refused to criticize Moscow’s invasion, or even call it that. It has accused the U.S. and NATO of provoking the conflict and condemned sanctions leveled against Russia and entities seen as aiding its military effort.

Last week, those sanctions were expanded to include a Chinese company known as Spacety China, which has supplied satellite imagery of Ukraine to affiliates of Wagner Group, a private Russian military contractor owned by a close associate of Putin. A Luxembourg-based subsidiary of Spacety China was also targeted.

“The U.S. has no right to point fingers at China-Russia relations. We will by no means accept the U.S. pressure and coercion,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Monday at a daily briefing.

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