MOSCOW–Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Sunday arrived in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin as Russia is struggling with its most pronounced isolation since the end of the Cold War. “It is a major event in the bilateral relations,” Chinese Vice Minister Cheng Guoping said ahead of Li’s visit. He said both sides would sign a joint communique and about 50 agreements. “We are confident it will be a success,” he said.
Deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov in Moscow said the two countries would sign a host of deals including on nuclear energy, natural gas, financing and banking. “I am convinced that the Chinese Prime Minister’s visit will allow us to make substantial progress in key areas of practical cooperation,” he said in comments released by the foreign ministry on Sunday. Li’s first visit to Russia as premier comes at a sensitive time as the Kremlin is grappling with the consequences of its support for separatists in Ukraine during a six-month conflict in the east of the ex-Soviet country. Besides meeting Putin on Tuesday, Li will also meet with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev and attend a forum on innovations during the three-day visit. Li’s Russia’s trip is part of a week-long visit to Europe. ‘China against sanctions’ Ahead of his Moscow visit, Li traveled to Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He will also participate in a summit in Milan next week. Putin late Saturday ordered a pullback of troops from the border with Ukraine and will hold key talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe meeting in Milan next week. China has spoken out against Western sanctions against Russia. Resource-hungry China is seeking to diversify its sources of energy amid booming domestic consumption, while Russia is seeking to tap fast-developing Asian markets. Critics however disparaged the terms of the deal, saying Putin, in his bid to spite the West, signed an agreement that was more beneficial to China than Russia.