Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke on the phone Wednesday, and Xi pressed his position as a neutral peacemaker in the Russian-Ukrainian war that has dragged into a second year with no end in sight.
Xi appealed for negotiations, warning “there is no winner in a nuclear war,” Chinese state media reported, although Russia has dismissed claims it would resort to nuclear weapons and Ukraine no longer has them. Xi’s government will send a representative to Ukraine for talks about a possible political settlement, according to the report.
Zelenskyy provided an upbeat description of the call on social media: “I had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations.”
White House spokesman John Kirby called the direct communication between Xi and Zelenskyy “a good thing.” The Biden administration, he said, has been stressing the importance of China getting the Ukrainian perspective.
“Now, whether that’s going to lead to some sort of meaningful peace movement or plan or proposal, I just don’t think we know that right now,” Kirby told reporters.
China has claimed neutrality in the war, refusing to criticize Russia for the invasion and declining to participate in Western sanctions. Beijing also has denied speculation that it would supply Russia with much-needed weaponry and ammunition.
►Fighting on the outskirts of Bakhmut has intensified in recent days as Ukraine seeks to maintain control of a primary supply route, the British Defense Ministry said in its most recent assessment of the war.
►Explosions at Russian military facilities in Russian-occupied Crimea do not violate the Black Sea grain deal, Ukraine officials said. The Russian Ministry of Defense accused Ukraine of violating the grain agreement by attacking Russia’s fleet in occupied Sevastopol.
CHINA AFFIRMS UKRAINE SOVEREIGNITY:China disavows diplomat’s claim after outcry, affirms Ukraine’s sovereignty
Zelenskyy marks anniversary of Chernobyl catastrophe with a warning
Ukraine President Volodmyr Zelenskyy marked the 37th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant disaster by laying flowers at two Kyiv memorials victims and warning that Russia could fuel another nuclear catastrophe with military attacks near the plants.
Russian forces occupied the Chernobyl plant for a few weeks early in the war before withdrawing. The Chernobyl meltdown resulted in scores of deaths and contamination over a wide area.
“Thirty-seven years ago, the Chernobyl NPP accident left a huge scar on the whole world,” Zelenskyy said in a Twitter post. “It’s been more than a year since the liberation of the plant from the invader. We must do everything to prevent the terrorist state from using nuclear power facilities to blackmail and the world.”
Russian forces have been stationed at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest, since capturing the site early in the war. International nuclear experts have warned that fighting near the plant has jeopardized safety.
Zelenskyy said he spoke Wednesday with Rafael Grossi, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“I stressed that only the return of full control over (the Zaporizhzhia plant) will protect the world from a new disaster,” Zelenskyy said.
Contributing: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press