Moscow’s strongman this week welcomed Mr Xi to the Kremlin for a three-day state visit to sign new trade deals and investment promises. After the Chinese President touched down in Russia on Wednesday, Mr Putin led him on a tour of Moscow Zoo, where two pandas loaned to Russia by the Chinese for a 15 year project are staying. The offer of Ru Yi, a male, and Ding Ding, a female, who will live at the zoo with the aim of reproducing, was a “gesture of particular respect and trust in Russia,” Mr Putin said.
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But while it make take some time for the animals’ partnership to bear fruit – pandas are known to be reluctant breeders – the two leaders’ fellowship has hit “an unprecedented high level”.
Beijing is embroiled in a bitter trade war with Washington while Moscow is suffering the consequences of sanctions imposed by the West over the Ukraine conflict.
As their talks kicked off, Mr Putin told Mr Xi : “Our strategic partnership, we believe, has reached an unprecedented high level.
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“We are living in the best of days, in terms of our country’s relations… Our interests are very similar.” The fond words came at the start of the trip which will see the Chinese leader attend Russia’s flagship economic forum in St Petersburg later this week.
Mr Putin and Mr Xi vowed to deepen military technical cooperation at the talks in Moscow, as businesses from both nations signed off deals.
In a statement published by the Kremlin, Mr Xi said: “Over the past six years we have met almost 30 times … Putin is my best friend and a good colleague.”