(CNN) Chinese leader Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.
It will be Xi’s first visit to Moscow since Putin launched his devastating invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
During the visit, Xi and Putin will discuss “strategic cooperation” between the two countries, according to the Kremlin.
“During the talks, topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China will be discussed,” the Kremlin said in a statement on Friday.
“An exchange of views is also planned within the framework of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena,” the Kremlin added. “A number of important bilateral documents will be signed.”
The visit comes as China tries to portray itself as a neutral peace broker on Ukraine, but the effort has been met with skepticism in Western capitals due to Beijing’s growing partnership with Moscow.
Xi and Putin declared a “boundless” friendship in February last year when the Russian leader visited Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
Weeks later, Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine.
China has since refused to condemn the Russian invasion – or called it such, instead blaming the NATO advance for provoking the conflict and repeating the Kremlin’s position.
He also provided diplomatic support to Moscow, while strengthening economic and military ties with its northern neighbor.
In recent weeks, Western officials have begun to publicly raise concerns that China is planning to provide Russia with lethal military assistance, a charge Beijing denies.
Last month, Putin hosted top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Moscow days before the anniversary of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The high-profile visit was widely seen as a precursor to a meeting between Putin and Xi.
Putin told Wang that relations between his country and China were “reaching new stages”, while Wang pledged to “further strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership”.
Wang arrived in Moscow after US officials publicly expressed concern about the impact China’s continued partnership with Russia could have on the war in Ukraine – and hours after Putin gave a major speech on the conflict. , in which he announced his intention to suspend Russia’s involvement in its latest nuclear arms treaty with the United States.
Putin and Xi held a final virtual meeting in December, during which the Russian leader described relations between the two nations as “the best in history”, saying they could “stand up to any test”. Putin also invited Xi to visit Moscow in the spring of 2023.
The two leaders have forged a close personal bond, with Xi describing Putin as a “best friend” in 2019. Xi has met Putin in person 39 times since becoming China’s leader, most recently in September at a a summit in Central Asia.