Blinken Says Xi’s Russia Visit Amounts to ‘Diplomatic Cover’ for War Crimes

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Monday said that the visit to Moscow by China’s president days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, amounts to Beijing providing “diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit” war crimes.

President Xi Jinping’s visit “suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the president accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine,” Mr. Blinken said of Mr. Putin.

Mr. Blinken made the remark during a longer criticism of the role China has sought to take in the war by offering a vague plan for peace talks that Kyiv and its Western allies have brushed off. He warned against any efforts to settle the conflict that might lead to an “unjust outcome” or offer Russia a chance to gain a tactical advantage in the fighting.

The briefing by Mr. Blinken in Washington was to mark the release of the State Department’s annual report on global human rights, which harshly condemned Russian forces for a litany of atrocities in Ukraine, including “credible reports of summary execution, torture, rape and indiscriminate attacks,” including ones targeting civilians.

The report also found that Russia’s government “engaged in the forced deportation of civilians from Ukraine to Russia,” including children — the subject of the charges against Mr. Putin that the international court announced on Friday.

The department also noted serious human rights problems within Ukraine, including arbitrary arrests and killings and inadequate steps to punish officials who committed misdeeds. But the report said the issues there were “not comparable to the scope of Russia’s abuses.”

Mr. Blinken said he expected China to use Mr. Xi’s trip to reiterate its past calls for a cease-fire under the 12-point peace proposal that China presented last month. But he expressed deep skepticism about the Chinese efforts, saying that a call for a cease-fire that does not include the removal of Russian forces from Ukraine “would effectively be supporting the ratification of Russian conquest,” he said. “It would recognize Russia’s attempts to seize a sovereign neighbor’s territory by force.”

He said that the U.S. would welcome any peace initiative for Ukraine “that advances a just and durable peace,” and supports elements of China’s proposal, including the protection of civilians and ensuring nuclear safety.

But the fundamental element of any plan to end the fighting must be “upholding the sovereignty and territory of Ukraine,” he said, adding, “Any plan that does not prioritize this critical principle is a stalling tactic at best, or is merely seeking to facilitate an unjust outcome.”

He said that Mr. Putin’s efforts to annex Ukrainian territory and his military’s ongoing attacks on civilians prove that Mr. Putin “has no interest” in such a peace.

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