Xi Jinping ‘unsettled’ by Vladimir Putin’s difficulties in Ukraine

According to Chinese state media, he said: “The priority is to avoid escalating tensions from getting out of control.”

They were the first public remarks by Mr Xi since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly two weeks ago.

China has refused to denounce Russia’s actions and has stopped short of calling it an invasion. Mr Xi has bolstered ties with Vladimir Putin over the last decade in efforts to counter the West.

A month ago, they declared a “no limits” friendship between Beijing and Moscow when Mr Putin was in China to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Mention of the war has been heavily censored in China, and a number of foreign embassies in Beijing showing support for Ukraine are under watch by increased security personnel.

The British embassy began flying the Ukrainian flag the morning after Russia invaded, and has hoisted it every day since.

The Canadian embassy has put up signs saying “We stand with Ukraine” and “We support Ukraine.” And the EU delegation has lit up its building in blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

Premier League matches were blacked out in China this weekend given public protests in the UK against the war by both players and fans.

Meanwhile, an adviser to China’s government called for new laws banning “fake news,” fueling concerns that China could use such a measure to further constrain foreign journalists.

Jia Qingguo, an academic who serves on the standing committee of China’s top political advisory body, said there should be specific measures to “severely punish” those who create false information to “cause serious harm to society”.

Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher with Human Rights Watch: “If the law Professor Jia proposed gets passed, it will likely lead to the further chilling of speech.”

Last Friday, the Kremlin passed a law threatening 15-year prison sentences for those in Russia sharing “fake news”, essentially any information going against the government’s position on the invasion of Ukraine.

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