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China Praises Putin’s Leadership, Calls for Stability in Russia

China moved to bolster Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday — praising his “strategic guidance” and calling for stability — but not until the dust had settled over a short-lived mutiny challenging his rule.

Beijing sat silently throughout Saturday as the mercenary Wagner Group seized the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and moved to storm Moscow with demands for military leadership changes from Putin. Western governments, meanwhile, were issuing concerned statements assuring they were monitoring the fast-evolving situation in Russia.

It was only well after the Russian leader reached a deal late Saturday with Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and ended the military rebellion that Beijing spoke out.

“This is a matter of Russia’s domestic affairs,” the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said in a statement on Sunday. “China supports Russia in safeguarding national stability and delivering development and prosperity.”

Hosting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko in Beijing on Sunday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu was more positive about the Russian leader. “Under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin, the Chinese-Russian political trust has continued to deepen,” Ma said.

Beijing, though, made it public that Beijing wanted Moscow to keep China informed as quickly as possible in the future. According to the ministry, Ma told Rudenko to “communicate and cross-check in a timely manner” in face of the “complex and difficult international atmosphere.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Rudenko’s trip to Beijing was a follow-up to Xi’s visit to Russia in March, aimed at entrenching and expanding bilateral ties.

“The Chinese side expressed its support for the efforts made by Russia’s leadership to stabilize the situation in the country in connection with the events of June 24 and affirmed its interest in Russia’s strengthened unity and continued thriving,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

Xi has repeatedly shored up Putin during the course of the war that began last year, and kept Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy waiting for more than a year before direct communication. China has kept the trade flow open with Russia which has had the bulk of its economy under Western sanctions, but the two countries stop short of a military alliance.