Ukraine war
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Li Hui, who is overseeing Beijing’s peacemaking efforts in Ukraine, is undertaking a tour of European capitals. Photo: Weibo

Ukraine war: Polish official warns China’s peace envoy that Russian withdrawal is only solution

  • Polish deputy foreign minister Wojciech Gerwel tells Li Hui of ‘grave consequences’ for EU-China relations if Beijing provides military support to Russia
  • Envoy meets with Polish officials in Warsaw after a two-day trip to Kyiv, and will follow it with stops in Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Moscow
Ukraine war
Peace in Ukraine can only be achieved through the withdrawal of Russian troops and return of “unlawfully seized territories”, Chinese envoy Li Hui was told in Poland on Friday.
Polish deputy foreign minister Wojciech Gerwel also warned Li of “grave consequences for the bilateral relationship between Europe and China” if Beijing provided military support to Russia.
Li, a veteran diplomat selected by Chinese President Xi Jinping to oversee Beijing’s peacemaking efforts, met Gerwel and other Polish officials in Warsaw following a two-day stint in Kyiv.

In both capitals, he was given near-identical messages, focused on the view that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace plan is the only legitimate way to end the 15-month war.

Polish deputy foreign affairs minister Wojciech Gerwel reiterated the message Li had heard in Kyiv: that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plan was the only legitimate path for peace. Photo: EPA-EFE
“We support President Zelensky’s peace plan as the basis for resolving the conflict,” Gerwel said, according to a readout from the Polish foreign ministry.

“The withdrawal of Russian troops and the return of unlawfully seized territories by Russia are the only acceptable solution to achieve a just peace.”

A Chinese version of the meeting, released a few hours after the Polish account, stuck closely to previous talking points from the ministry of foreign affairs.

Li – who spent 10 years as China’s ambassador to Russia – underscored China’s support for its own peace proposal, unveiled in February, which critics in Europe have said does not differentiate between the aggressor and the targeted.

“Li Hui said that the escalation and protraction of the Ukrainian crisis is not in the interests of all parties. China hopes that the war will subside as soon as possible and the peace talks can be restarted,” according to the note.

China’s envoy says Ukraine, Russia must ‘start with themselves’ to end war

It added that China would look for a “political solution to the crisis, and gradually accumulate consensus and lay a solid foundation for the ceasefire and cessation of war”.

Poland, which has been among Europe’s strongest backers of Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February 2022, added pressure on Li’s delegation to do more to bring the war to an end.

Gerwel noted “with concern Beijing’s declarations concerning its persistent will to strengthen its bilateral relations with Russia, the aggressor state”, according to the account. Warsaw asked for “concrete help” from China in securing the “safe functioning of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia”.

Russian service members guard the entrance to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during a visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency expert mission on March 29. Photo: Reuters
Gerwel – formerly Warsaw’s ambassador to Vietnam – requested that China “never recognise” Ukrainian territories illegally annexed by Russia, “just as it has not recognised the annexation of Crimea from 2014”.

Justyna Szczudlik, a China analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said the Polish government had issued “a de facto” open rejection of China’s 12-point plan and “full support for the idea that Ukraine should decide what the victory and the end of war means”.


“The Polish ministry has effectively confronted China with its own principles and norms, such as non-interference, the five principles of peaceful coexistence, territorial integrity,” Szczudlik said.

Li will next travel to western Europe for meetings in Berlin, Paris and Brussels, where he will meet EU officials, before finishing his trip in Moscow.

In each of the western European capitals, officials said, he can expect a similar response. On Wednesday, the respective governments coordinated their positions on a call, ahead of Li’s whistle-stop tour, according to people familiar with the discussion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shaking hands with a Saudi official after arriving on Friday to attend the 32nd Arab League summit, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Saudi Press Agency/ EPA-EFE

In Kyiv on Tuesday, Li met with Zelensky, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. However, Ukraine’s official account said that the meeting was handled by the head of the presidential office, Andriy Yermak.


Yermak along with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tried to convince Li of the virtues of Ukraine’s own peace plan, Kyiv said.

“We are interested in China being involved in the implementation of the Ukrainian peace formula,” Yermak said.

Zelensky travelled to Saudi Arabia on Friday, where he is expected to address a meeting of the Arab League. According to media reports, he will then fly to Japan to address the Group of 7 leaders summit in Hiroshima.