China’s top diplomat will begin a four-day trip to Russia today during which both nations are expected to pledge deeper mutual political trust.
Wang Yi’s visit comes ahead of a possible landmark trip to Beijing by Vladimir Putin next month.
Throughout the trip, Mr Wang, who heads the country’s foreign ministry, will meet security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev for annual security talks.
The veteran diplomat’s talks with counterpart Sergei Lavrov will cover a “wide range of issues” including “contacts at higher and the highest levels,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
The visit will also see a detailed exchange of views on issues including Ukraine, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week.
Mr Wang is expected to lay the groundwork for the Russian president’s visit to the Chinese capital for the third Belt and Road Forum after an invitation by President Xi Jinping during a high-profile visit to Moscow in March.
Mr Putin attended China’s first two Belt and Road Forums in 2017 and 2019.
But he is not known to have travelled abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him on grounds of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
The warrant, issued just days before Xi visited Russia, obligates the court’s 123 member states to arrest Mr Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he enters their territory.
However, China is not a member.
Mr Wang last visited Russia in February on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, alarming the United States, which accused the two nations at the time of sharing a vision in which “borders could be redrawn by force”.
Ahead of this week’s visit, Mr Wang travelled to Malta for hours of “constructive” talks with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
More than 20 drone attacks launched by Russia overnight
Ukraine came under fire by 24 drone attacks last night, its air force has said.
The unmanned aerial vehicles were launched over the southern cities Mykolaiv and Odessa, it said in a Telegram post, claiming a total of 18 “attack drones” were destroyed.
A number of cruise missiles were also fired by Moscow but all 17 of them were destroyed over Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava and Khmelnytskyi, it added.