China calls Ukraine situation 'grave' but refuses to criticise Russia

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By AP
People ride past a large video screen showing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after the closing session of China's National People's Congress in Beijing.
People ride past a large video screen showing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after the closing session of China's National People's Congress in Beijing.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

China’s Premier Li Keqiang on Friday called the situation in Ukraine “grave” and offered Beijing’s help in playing a “positive role” for peace while continuing to refuse to criticise Russia.

China has largely sided with Russia in the conflict, which it has refused to refer to as a war or invasion. The US accuses Beijing of helping spread false news and disinformation coming out of Moscow.

China has offered to serve as a facilitator of talks between the sides, although it has little experience in such a role and would not likely be viewed as a neutral party.

“We support and encourage all efforts that are conducive to a peaceful settlement of the crisis," Li told reporters at an annual news conference. “The pressing task now is to prevent tension from escalating or even getting out of control."

Beijing this week said it was sending humanitarian aid including food and daily necessities worth $791,000 (€720,000) to Ukraine while continuing to oppose sanctions against Russia over its invasion and pledging to continue normal trade and economic cooperation with Moscow.

Li, who as China's No. 2 leader behind Xi Jinping is primarily responsible for overseeing the world’s second-largest economy, spoke following the close of the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp legislature. He said China was still opposed to sanctions because they would “hurt the world economic recovery."

“It is in no one’s interest. China is ready to make its own constructive efforts in maintaining world peace and stability and promoting development and prosperity," Li said.

He also repeated China's assertion that it follows an “independent foreign policy of peace," and “maintains that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected."

“The purposes and principles of the UN charter should be observed and the legitimate security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously," Li said. “On that basis, China makes its own assessment and will work with the international community to play a positive role for the early return of peace."