Russia says China on board over its actions in Ukraine; Beijing less forthright

But Beijing offers a less forthright comment on Moscow's incursion into Ukraine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 5:18pm

China and Russia are in broad agreement on the situation in Ukraine, the Russian foreign ministry said yesterday after telephone talks between the countries' top diplomats.

This came as Russia cemented its control of the Crimean peninsula and the US and European governments tried to figure out ways to halt and reverse the Russian incursion. The Moscow stock market fell by 11.3 per cent, wiping billions off the value of Russian companies.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in a phone call noted "broadly coinciding points of view of Russia and China over the situation", the Russian foreign ministry said. Russia appeared keen to stress that it has a major international ally on its military intervention in Ukraine after the other members of the G8 on Sunday released a statement condemning Russia. China is not a member of the G8.

When asked about Ukraine at a regular press briefing yesterday, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang answered indirectly. "China has always upheld the principles of diplomacy and the fundamental norms of international relations," he said.

Qin also referred to his statement posted on the ministry's website a day earlier, which also noted that "there are reasons that the Ukrainian situation is what it is today".

Niu Jun , a professor of international affairs at Peking University, said: "What this statement is really saying is, 'what Russia did was not right and China does not want to support this military invasion'."

But China also wants to support Russia, so it came up with excuses such as Russia's history with Crimea and Ukraine's internal situation, he said.

Diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis continued with the United Nations Security Council holding an emergency meeting, this time at the request of Russia and US Vice-President Joe Biden held a telephone conversation with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev this week in a show of support for the embattled leadership.

The European Union, meanwhile, was trying to overcome differences on how to respond with hawkish ex-Soviet satellites pushing for sanctions but others like France and Germany calling for soft diplomacy. Germany said Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed with Chancellor Angela Merkel to set up a contact group on Ukraine.

Watch: Obama: Russia in "violation of international law" in Ukraine

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse