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China Moves Hint At Beijing Unease Over Russia's Ukraine Invasion

By RFE/RL March 04, 2022

Beijing has expressed concern and urged "restraint" over events in Ukraine while a China-backed lender cut off Russia and Belarus in a possible signal of rising tensions with Moscow since President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine nine days ago.

Official China publicly acknowledged Russia's public warnings of perceived security threats from NATO ahead of the Russian attack and has since avoided condemning it or describing it as a "war" on its fellow post-Soviet neighbor.

But China's Foreign Ministry took a dim view of the risks of a nuclear catastrophe after a facility at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine caught fire as Russian forces were shelling the area ahead of its seizure early on March 4.

"We will monitor the situation and call on all sides to exercise restraint, avoid escalation, and ensure the safety of relevant nuclear facilities," ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing.

Local atomic monitors and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have each said that no elevated radiation levels have been detected at Zaporizhzhya, despite the fire.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is backed by China, announced on March 3 that it was suspending operations related to Russia and Belarus.

Belarus's strongman leader, Alyaksander Lukashenka, allowed tens of thousands of Russian troops to stage a northern prong of the invasion following weeks of joint "exercises" near the Ukrainian border.

The 5-year-old AIIB said that "in the best interests of the bank, management has decided that all activities relating to Russia and Belarus are on hold and under review."

China proposed the AIIB's creation in 2013 in an effort to rival the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It is regarded as the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Russia is a founding AIIB member and the third-largest vote holder after China and India in the $40 billion institution.

Russia's economy has been slammed by financial and other international sanctions as the Ukraine war rages, and analysts regard Beijing as an increasingly crucial trade and diplomatic partner to an increasingly isolated Moscow.

Chinese authorities issued instructions via the social media platforms of Beijing News last week telling media outlets to post only pro-Russian content and to censor anti-Russian or pro-Western views. The post was subsequently deleted, according to AP.

Putin issued a call on March 4 saying Russia would meet its international economic obligations and urged other countries to normalize relations with Moscow.

The New York Times this week quoted an unspecified Western intelligence report as concluding that Chinese officials had prior knowledge of Putin's intentions in Ukraine and urged him to avoid an invasion until after the Beijing Winter Olympics ended on February 20.

Xi Jinping and Putin met on February 4 ahead of the Olympics and issued a lengthy statement pledging a partnership with "no limits" and their intentions to usher in a new world order.

The New York Times said the underlying intelligence was "collected by a Western intelligence service and considered credible by officials."

With reporting by Reuters and The New York Times

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/china-russia- ukraine-restraint/31735985.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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