Top Chinese Envoy to Visit Ukraine, Russia on 'Peace' Mission

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BEIJING, China (Reuters) – A Chinese envoy who is a top official in the country will start a tour to Ukraine, Russia and European cities starting on Monday. Beijing claims that this trip is aimed at discussing a “political solution” to the Ukraine Crisis.

Li Hui will visit Poland, France and Germany during the multi-day tour, announced the Foreign Ministry on Friday, without giving a schedule.

At a daily press briefing, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the foreign ministry said: "The visit... is a testimony to China's effort to promote peace talks and fully demonstrates China’s firm commitment towards peace."

His visit could coincide with the start of the long-anticipated counteroffensive launched by Ukraine in order to recapture the territory that Russia has seized.

The visit came weeks after Chinese president Xi Jinping had a telephone call with his Ukrainian equivalent Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the end of April. It was the first time the two leaders have spoken since the beginning of the war.

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Zelenskiy called the call "long and meaningful" in a tweet, while Xi stated that China would promote peace. However, Beijing's plans to end the conflict were met with some skepticism by the West, given its ties to Russia.

Several European leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen have urged Xi, during a series of visits to Beijing from March, to speak to Zelenskiy, and to play a more proactive role in restraining Moscow’s actions.

Beijing has been heavily promoting a 12-point plan for a political solution to the Ukraine crisis since February.

The plan was launched on the anniversary of the Russian invasion and was largely a repetition of China's earlier positions on the war. The plan urged both sides towards a gradual deescalation, and warned against nuclear weapons.

Kyiv has rejected the idea of making any territorial concessions with Russia, and said that it wants to reclaim every inch of land. Since last year, Russia has claimed that it annexed 4 other Ukrainian regions which Moscow now refers to as Russian land.

China has not condemned its strategic ally Moscow, or called its actions an "invasion", throughout the war. This has led to criticisms from European countries and from the United States who have questioned China’s credibility as a possible broker in the conflict.

Li's message will be closely scrutinised, given the concern among Western nations about Xi's March meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his "dearest friend", and their commitment to a partnership "without limits" less than three weeks prior to the invasion. Moscow described the operation as a special military operation.