Top Chinese envoy heads to Ukraine, Russia in Europe ‘peace’ tour

In an effort to facilitate a “political settlement” to the ongoing Ukraine crisis, Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs and a former ambassador to Russia, is embarking on a tour of Europe.

His journey will include visits to Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany, and culminate in Russia.

The Chinese foreign ministry announced that the purpose of the trip is to engage in substantive discussions with various stakeholders involved in the Ukraine crisis.

Li Hui’s visit to Ukraine holds particular significance, as he is the highest-ranking Chinese official to travel to the country since the full-scale invasion by Russia in February 2022.

It is worth noting that his arrival might coincide with Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive to regain the territories currently occupied by Russia.

This diplomatic initiative follows a telephone conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, marking the first known wartime call between the leaders of the two nations.

Zelenskyy described the hour-long conversation as “long and meaningful,” while Xi emphasized China’s commitment to promoting peace through dialogue.

On the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, China released a comprehensive proposal titled “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis,” consisting of 12 key points.

However, some Western capitals viewed this document skeptically due to China’s close ties with Russia. The proposal calls for gradual de-escalation and urges both sides to abandon a Cold War mentality.

Notably, Beijing has refrained from explicitly condemning Moscow for its invasion, despite committing to an all-encompassing partnership just weeks before the conflict erupted.

In a significant show of solidarity, President Xi visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, signing an agreement to elevate bilateral relations to a “new era.”

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Li Hui’s extensive diplomatic experience focused on the Soviet Union, Russia, and the subsequent nations that emerged from its dissolution.

He has been dealing with these matters since joining the foreign ministry’s Department of Soviet and East European Affairs in 1975.

His expertise and fluency in Russian position him as a key figure in fostering dialogue and resolving the Ukraine crisis.

Following the Xi-Zelenskyy call, several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have visited Beijing and urged China to take a more active role in restraining Moscow’s actions.

However, Kyiv has firmly rejected the notion of territorial concessions to Russia, maintaining its unwavering stance on reclaiming every inch of its land.

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Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent annexation of four eastern Ukrainian regions in September last year have drawn widespread condemnation internationally.

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