China urged Russia to delay the invasion of Ukraine until the conclusion of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, it was revealed on Wednesday.
Senior Chinese officials made the request in early February after Washington informed Beijing of the Russian troop build-up in the hopes communist leaders would pressure their ally to stand down, a source confirmed to Reuters.
Russia waged war with Ukraine four days after the Olympics ended, and Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated his military advance and rhetoric in the hours after the closing ceremony ended.
The New York Times first reported the collusion Wednesday, citing White House officials and a Western intelligence report. It was reportedly unclear if the discussions reached Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin.
A China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said it wasn’t clear if the authoritarian leaders were in cahoots.
“Given the evidence we have so far, I think we can’t rule out either possibility definitely – that Xi didn’t know (which is bad) and that Xi may have known (which is also bad),” Bonny Lin said.
China said the Times report was untrue and amounted to a “smear” campaign, in a statement.
As the games began, Putin and Xi met in Beijing and issued a joint statement pushing back on the US and any NATO expansion.
China said Tuesday it would help negotiate a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine.
The Olympics have been a backdrop to Russian military aggression during Putin’s reign.
In 2008, China had bristled at Russia’s invasion of Georgia during the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Six years later Russia seized Crimea while it hosted the winter games in Sochi.
With Post wires