Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is due to host Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in what will be their first face-to-face meeting since the invasion of Ukraine , when ministers from countries bordering Afghanistan gather in China next week. Lavrov will lead the Russian delegation to Tunxi, in China’s eastern Anhui province, for the Ministerial Conference of Afghanistan’s Neighbours on March 31, the Russian foreign ministry said. Officials from Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will also attend. The conference aims to “discuss the coordination of regional efforts to provide humanitarian and socioeconomic support to Afghanistan”, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. This will be Lavrov’s first visit to China and first public in-person appearance at a multilateral event since Russian President Vladimir Putin began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. His last visit was when he accompanied Putin to Beijing ahead of the Winter Olympics in early February, when China and Russia hailed their “no limits” strategic partnership . Lavrov’s latest visit comes at a time when that partnership is under scrutiny, following Russia’s attack on Ukraine and Beijing’s reluctance to distance itself from Moscow. The conflict has triggered some of Moscow’s worst confrontations with the West since the Cold War, with a raft of Western sanctions and Russian retaliation threatening the global economy, as well as energy and food security. China, however, is among a handful of countries to have repeatedly abstained from UN resolutions condemning Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. On Thursday, it abstained from a UN vote blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis sparked in the former Soviet republic. Instead, Beijing has accused the United States of intensifying tensions, while highlighting Moscow’s “legitimate security concerns” regarding the eastward expansion of Nato. Why China won’t get dragged into Russia’s war on Ukraine Beijing has also rejected suggestions by some G20 members that Russia be excluded from a leaders’ summit later this year in Indonesia, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin calling Russia an “important member” of the G20. Zhao Long, a senior research fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the war in Ukraine was expected to be high on the agenda of next week’s foreign ministers’ meetings in Tunxi, even though Afghan issues would be the theme. Representatives from China, Russia, the US and Pakistan were expected to meet on the sidelines of the main event to separately discuss the situation in Afghanistan, according to Zhao. “This would be an opportunity for Lavrov to have bilateral meetings with different parties,” Zhao said. He said Beijing and Moscow may also take this opportunity to “compare notes” on a number of issues, including the Ukraine crisis, Nato’s eastward expansion, and opposition to Western sanctions, “to jointly stress the independent value of Sino-Russia relations and their high-level of strategic mutual trust”. Its reluctance to condemn Russia’s aggression has also triggered speculation that Beijing may provide military assistance to Moscow, with the US and Europe increasingly asking China to clarify its position. China’s foreign minister meets Taliban leaders in surprise Kabul stop In a recent interview with Phoenix TV, China’s ambassador to the US Qin Gang said while there was “no forbidden zone” for cooperation with Russia, there was “also a bottom line, which is the tenets and principles established in the UN Charter”. Russia is also looking to shore up support from other countries. Earlier this week, Lavrov hosted ambassadors from the BRICS nations for a working breakfast in Moscow to discuss the Ukraine situation, Russian news agency Tass reported. The BRICS emerging economies bloc includes Brazil, India, China and South Africa, apart from Russia.