China special envoy to visit Kyiv starting Tuesday: Ukraine govt source

KYIV – A Chinese special envoy will arrive in Kyiv for a two-day visit on Tuesday, as part of a European tour to work on Beijing-led peace negotiations on the war in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian government official told AFP that China’s high-ranking diplomat Li Hui “will be in Kyiv May 16 and 17”.

Beijing had announced his visit last week, saying it is aimed at discussing a “political settlement” to the Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to meet the Chinese envoy on Tuesday in Kyiv.

Mr Li, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs and former ambassador to Russia, will also visit Russia, Poland, France and Germany on the multi-day trip, the Foreign Ministry announced on Friday without providing a detailed schedule.

“The visit… is a testament to China’s efforts towards promoting peace talks, and fully demonstrates China’s firm commitment to peace,” the ministry’s spokesman, Mr Wang Wenbin, said at a daily briefing.

Mr Li is the most senior Chinese official to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, and his trip could coincide with the beginning of a long-anticipated counteroffensive by Ukraine to recapture territory seized by Russia.

The visit comes weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping held a phone call with Mr Zelensky in late April, in the first talks between the two leaders since the war began.

Mr Zelensky described the call as “long and meaningful” on Twitter, while Mr Xi said China would focus on promoting peace, although Beijing’s proposals to end the conflict have been met with some scepticism in the West given its ties with Russia.

However, several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, have urged Mr Xi to speak with Mr Zelensky and play a more active role in restraining Moscow’s actions during a string of visits to the Chinese capital from March onwards.

Since February, Beijing has heavily promoted a 12-point proposal for a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.

But the plan, launched on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, was largely a reiteration of China’s previous lines on the war.

It urged both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation and warned against the use of nuclear weapons.

Kyiv has ruled out the idea of any territorial concessions to Russia and has said it wants every inch of its land back.

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and since 2022 has claimed to have annexed four other Ukrainian regions, which Moscow now calls Russian land.

Throughout the war, China has refrained from condemning its strategic ally Moscow or referring to its actions as an “invasion”, leading to criticism from European countries and the United States, which have questioned China’s credibility as a potential broker in the conflict.

Whatever message Mr Li delivers will be carefully scrutinised given the unease among Western nations over Mr Xi’s meeting with his “dear friend” Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, and the two countries’ commitment to a “no limits” partnership less than three weeks before the invasion, which Moscow called a “special military operation”. AFP, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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