Russia's war on Ukraine and alleged support for Hamas will both loom over Putin's appearance at the 'Belt and Road' event.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was welcomed on Tuesday by his Chinese counterpart and ally Xi Jinping, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced, on the occasion of the "New Silk Roads" summit in Beijing, at a time when the eyes of the world are focused on the Israel-Hamas war.
"President Xi Jinping greeted President Vladimir Putin on his arrival, and the two leaders had a brief conversation," Russian diplomacy said in a message published on X (formerly Twitter).
A full meeting between the two heads of state is scheduled for Wednesday.
This is Putin's first trip to a major world power since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which helped isolate Russia from many other states, and only his second foreign visit since he was slapped with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court – of which China is not a member.
After arriving in Beijing on Tuesday, the Russian President met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is striving to maintain his ties with Moscow despite the war in Ukraine. Putin expressed his satisfaction at having Hungary as an interlocutor in Europe.
China is hosting representatives from some 130 countries at the "New Silk Roads" forum (officially known as "The Belt and Road"), a major diplomatic event designed to enhance its international standing as an economic superpower.
The event comes as war rages between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Ukrainian military intelligence claims to have evidence suggesting that Russia provided support of some kind to Hamas in advance of its murderous terrorist attack on Israeli civilians on 7 October, including moving a spy satellite into geostationary orbit over Israel.
Heavily penalised by the West for its offensive against Ukraine, Russia is seeking to strengthen its already close ties with China. Their bilateral relationship appears to have become unbalanced in China's favour since the Ukrainian war began to severely damage Russia's military, economy and international relations in general.
Beijing has been criticised by the West over Ukraine. While it calls for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries, it has never publicly condemned Moscow for its actions since February 2022.
Just weeks before Russia's invasion, Putin met with Xi in Beijing, where the two leaders signed an agreement pledging a "no-limits" relationship. Beijing's attempts to present itself as a neutral peace broker in the Ukraine war have been widely dismissed by the international community.
Xi visited Moscow in March as part of a flurry of exchanges between the countries. China has condemned international sanctions imposed on Russia but hasn't directly addressed the matter of the ICC's arrest warrant, which accuses Putin of being involved in the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.