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China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin

Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo montage/Worldcrunch)
Anna Akage, Meike Eijsberg, Shaun Lavelle and Emma Albright

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Thursday at a summit in Uzbekistan, their first face-to-face encounter since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

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The meeting comes as Russia is reeling from major Ukraine advances on the ground in the six-month-old war, and with the Western alliance holding firm in its support of Kyiv. In their meeting, Russia state media reported that Putin told Xi Jinping he appreciated China’s “balanced position” regarding the conflict in Ukraine. The Kremlin leader also condemned U.S. “provocations” in the Taiwan Strait.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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