Putin Says Chinese Proposal Could Be Basis for Peace in Ukraine

 Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023. (Reuters)
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Putin Says Chinese Proposal Could Be Basis for Peace in Ukraine

 Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023. (Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday that Chinese proposals could be used as the basis of a peace settlement in Ukraine, but that the West and Kyiv were not yet ready.

In a joint statement issued at the end of Xi's state visit to Moscow, the two men cautioned against any steps that might push the Ukraine conflict into an "uncontrollable phase", adding pointedly that there could be no winners in a nuclear war.

Putin accused Western powers of fighting "to the last Ukrainian", while Xi reiterated China's "neutral position" on Ukraine and called for dialogue.

"We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv. However, so far we see no such readiness from their side," Putin said.

China's proposal - a 12-point paper calling for a de-escalation and eventual ceasefire in Ukraine - lacks details on how to end the war.

The United States has been dismissive of the Chinese proposal, given Beijing's refusal to condemn Russia over Ukraine, and says a ceasefire now would lock in Russian territorial gains and give Putin's army more time to regroup.

Kyiv has welcomed China's diplomatic involvement but says Russia must pull its troops out of Ukraine, and underlines the importance of Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Burgeoning ties

The Kremlin talks were intended to cement the "no limits" partnership the two leaders announced last February, less than three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

They signed a series of documents on a "strategic cooperation" after what Putin described as "successful and constructive" talks showing China was clearly now Russia's most important economic partner.

"I am convinced that our multi-faceted cooperation will continue to develop for the good of the peoples of our countries," Putin said in televised remarks.

Xi's state visit is a major boost to Putin as he squares off against what he sees as a hostile West bent on inflicting a "strategic defeat" on Russia.

The Chinese leader visited Moscow days after an international court issued an arrest warrant for Putin over Russia's actions in Ukraine, where Russian forces have made little progress in recent months despite suffering heavy losses.

In their joint statement, Xi and Putin also called on the United States to stop "undermining global strategic security" and to cease developing a global missile defense system.

While pledging more regular joint military drills, however, the two leaders said their closer bilateral relationship was not directed against any third nation and that it did not constitute a "military-political alliance".

Power of Siberia

Putin said Russia, China and Mongolia had completed all agreements on a planned pipeline to ship Russian gas to China, and that Moscow was ready to increase oil exports to Beijing.

He also said Moscow was ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

The planned Power of Siberia 2 pipeline would deliver 50 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year from Russia to China via Mongolia. Moscow put forward the idea many years ago, but it has gained urgency as Russia turns to China to replace Europe as its major gas customer.

Russia's Gazprom already supplies gas to China through an existing Power of Siberia pipeline under a 30-year, $400 billion deal launched at the end of 2019. That pipeline spans some 3,000 km (1,865 miles).

Russia's gas exports to China are still a small fraction of the record 177 bcm it delivered to Europe in 2018-19.

Putin said on Tuesday Russia would deliver at least 98 bcm of gas to China by 2030.



Fire at Hospital in Iran’s North Kills 9 Patients

The Iranian flag. (AFP)
The Iranian flag. (AFP)
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Fire at Hospital in Iran’s North Kills 9 Patients

The Iranian flag. (AFP)
The Iranian flag. (AFP)

A fire broke out at a hospital in Iran's north, killing nine patients, state media reported Tuesday.

The blaze started at 1:30 local time (2200GMT) at Qaem Hospital in the city of Rasht, some 330 kilometers (about 205 miles) northwest of the capital Tehran, state TV said, leaving six women and three men dead.

Chief of the city fire department, Shahram Momeni, said on state TV that an electric short circuit in the basement — which harbors the intensive care unit — malfunctioned, causing the fire.

Momeni said emergency workers rescued more than 140 people, patients and hospital staff, after being trapped because of the smoke, and that 120 of them were hospitalized in other medical facilities. He added that an investigation has been ordered.

A video posted online appeared to show smoke billowing from the hospital in the middle of the night.

Iranian media occasionally report on fires in hospitals and clinics that are mainly blamed on technical issues.

In 2020, an explosion from a gas leak in a medical clinic in northern Tehran killed 19 people.