Russian diplomat flies to Beijing as Putin faces heat at home

Russian diplomat flies to Beijing as Putin faces heat at home
A top Russian official was in China on Sunday to discuss bilateral ties and other "issues of common concern."
2 min read
Wagner began pulling out of Russian towns they overtook on Saturday [Getty]

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko flew to Beijing for talks with China on "international" issues, amid a major challenge by Russian mercenaries to President Vladimir Putin's grip on power.

Rudenko on Sunday exchanged views with China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang in a meeting in the Chinese capital on Sunday on Sino-Russian relations as well as "international and regional issues of common concern," China's foreign ministry said in a one-line statement on its website.

It was unclear when Rudenko arrived in Beijing, or whether his visit to China, a key ally of Russia, was in response to the apparent rebellion by heavily armed mercenaries on Friday.

China has yet to publicly comment on the rebellion that Putin said threatened Russia's very existence. Western leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden said they were closely monitoring the situation.

"China will support Russia while stressing no interference of its internal affairs," prominent Chinese military expert and TV commentator Song Zhongping told Reuters.

Earlier, mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said his "march" on Moscow was intended to remove corrupt and incompetent commanders he blames for botching the war in Ukraine. Prigozhin's mercenary Wagner army has since halted its advance in a move Prigozhin said would avoid bloodshed.

The rebellion has been closely followed by Chinese media which has refrained from comment ahead of any official remarks, whereas many Chinese citizens have spoken up in support of Putin on social media.

"You can do it, Russia!" many Chinese citizens wrote in social media posts.

China's Embassy in Russia told Chinese media outlet Southern Metropolis Daily on Saturday that the region around Moscow was calm.

Hyping up the "mutiny" of Prigozhin and creating an "illusion" Russia has many internal contradictions and that "the building is collapsing" amounted to the latest attack by Western media and was another attempt to undermine Russian social unity, Chinese state-controlled Global Times said on Saturday.

To Song, the rebellion has ended.

"Prigozhin realises that it is difficult to achieve the desired results through this rebellion," Song said.