Russia’s Putin speaks at China’s Belt and Road forum in rare international appearance

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In a rare international appearance since the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a live audience at the third Belt and Road forum in Beijing on Wednesday.

In the opening ceremony speech, Putin invited other countries to participate in the development of the Northern Sea Route. The meeting marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative summit.

Speaking to 1,000 delegates representing over 130 countries, Putin said he agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the Belt and Road idea “folds logically within multilateral efforts” to increase global cooperation.

“In the European part of Russia, we form an international north-south corridor … It connects Russian ports in the Baltic and Arctic with the ports on the coast of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean along the entire route from our northern city,” Putin said according to a Google translation of his prepared remarks.

The Northern Sea Route is a 3,480 mile-long shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans which runs from the entrances of Novaya Zemiya straits in the west along the Russian Arctic Coast above Siberia.

Additionally, Moscow is working with foreign partners to also build railway routes from Central Siberia south toward China, Mongolia, and other ports of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, said Putin.

“Russia is the biggest country in the world,” Putin said. “That is why the connectivity of all the partners is relevant for the relations between the partners.”

Russia has a total area of 17,098,242 km², the largest in the world.

The successful development of the NSR “would potentially make Russia critical to global trade and communications between Asia and Europe,” according to an analysis by Foreign Policy.

Putin met Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday in Beijing in efforts to strengthen their “no-limits” partnership, against the backdrop of an escalating Middle East conflict and the ongoing Ukraine war.

Putin added that the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is consistent with Russian ideas to “create an integration circuit where freedom of trade, investment, and labor would be fully ensured.”

This marks Putin’s third attendance at the Belt and Road Forum, with the previous two held in 2017 and 2019.

In his opening address, Xi emphasized the progress made by the initiative, which he said would receive billions in new funds.

“The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will each set up a 350 billion yuan ($47.9 billion) financing window,” Xi said. This will be on top of an additional 80 billion yuan which will be injected into the Silk Road Fund.

Xi added that China will continue to deepen cooperation in areas such as green infrastructure and green transportation to support the BRI International Green Development Coalition.

Xi and Putin are also set to hold bilateral talks Wednesday.

In the decade since Xi launched the Belt and Road Initiative, new infrastructure investments have helped extend China’s influence in the developing world.

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