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‘Pro-Russian neutrality’: How Ukraine sees China’s emerging role

Abbax khan



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Russia’s ally signals a desire to broker peace, but few are convinced of Beijing’s power or motivations in Kyiv.

Volodymyr, a gaunt 44-year-old, recently returned from the front lines of eastern Ukraine and now needs psychological help for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

A contusion makes him slightly stutter.

He voraciously reads news from the cracked screen of his mobile phone – and has a firm opinion about recent headlines on the role of China, the only remaining heavy-weight partner in Russia’s corner, in the war.

“China prefers to stay away from this mess,” Volodymyr tells Al Jazeera, withholding his last name because he is still on active duty. “They’ll never openly support Russia.”

“Openly” is a keyword.

As the Russian-Ukrainian war approaches its 15th month, China still considers President Vladimir Putin an irreplaceable, “strategic” ally.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has remained the only global leader to maintain amicable ties with Putin – and has used China’s seat in the United Nations Security Council to repel diplomatic attacks on the Kremlin.

Xi has never denounced the war, rather calling it a “crisis”.

According to Ukrainian observers, Beijing’s position is full of ambivalence and omissions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia [File: Sergei Karpukhin/Sputnik/Kremlin via AP]

According to some, Xi sees the conflict through the prism of Taiwan, as China has long threatened to forcibly “unify” the self-governing island with the Communist mainland in ways that may be similar to how Russia “returned” Crimea.

While he now appears to be trying to add a peacekeeper’s feather to his cap, observers say he could in fact be attempting to freeze the war on Russia’s terms to let it replenish its arsenals, train more servicemen and switch its economy to wartime mode.

“China doesn’t need a pompous truce,” Sinologist Petro Shevchenko, of the Jilin University in the Chinese city of Changchun, told Al Jazeera. “In principle, it will make do with a freeze of some kind, when Ukraine doesn’t declare the war’s end.”

Beijing has said Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” should be maintained – and in February proposed a 12-point peace plan that was met with scepticism by Western powers. While it called for dialogue and denounced the possibility of a nuclear escalation, the plan also lambasted Western sanctions on Moscow and did not urge Russia to withdraw troops.

To convince Kyiv, Beijing “will resort to economic statecraft, economic tools” that may include a contribution to Ukraine’s post-war restoration and better access to China’s market for Ukrainian food producers, Shevchenko said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
Xi shakes hands with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko [File: Andrea Verdelli/Pool via Reuters]

It could be easy.

In 2017, China became Ukraine’s largest trading partner. It buys wheat, corn, jet engines and steel slabs – among other things.

Beijing also wants Ukraine to become a hub of the mammoth Belt and Road infrastructure project that straddles Eurasia from Pakistan to Poland – a role Kyiv rejected after the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.

But if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy brushes off China’s peace offering, Xi may start supplying Russia with weapons, including drones and microchips, Shevchenko said.

The step could be especially detrimental given that many Chinese arms are based on Soviet prototypes.

Beijing may also tacitly prod North Korea and Iran towards sending arms and ammunition to Moscow, he said.

But Ukraine’s former top diplomat thinks that this is something Beijing will not dare do.

“China should not cross the line, otherwise it will face many problems – not just economic, but political,” Volodymyr Ohryzko, Ukraine’s former foreign minister, told Al Jazeera.

A profitable standstill

Xi is not prolifically trying to push both sides towards a truce, preferring to bide his time without getting too embroiled in the conflict.

“Russia plays the role of an international hoodlum shaking the world order. The US and China benefit from the process – and will create a new [world order],” Kyiv-based analyst Igar Tyshkevich told Al Jazeera.

China consumes Russia’s hydrocarbons, uses its territory as a springboard to European markets and craves the Arctic riches Moscow cannot tap on its own.

The existing status quo, when Western sanctions isolate Russia and the collective West is deeply invested in the war, is “generally comfortable for Beijing”, says Temur Umarov, a Sinologist and expert with Carnegie Politika, a Berlin-based think tank.

“In this situation, the US doesn’t have the reach to start a conflict with China, to work out what’s happening in China, to confront it, while Russia has more and more to offer to Beijing because it has no other options,” he told Al Jazeera.

China would not mind repeating the diplomatic success it had in March when it mediated a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

But that happened because both sides wanted a settlement, Umarov said.

“Using the same optics in Ukraine is very hard, because neither Kyiv nor Moscow are ready for talks of any kind,” he said.

Firefighters putting out a burning truck
Firefighters work at a site of a vehicle parking area damaged by remains of Russian missiles, in Kyiv [Pavlo Petrov/Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Kyiv/Handout via Reuters]

‘Vassalisation’ of Russia?

Oleksandra Kurenenko, who teaches physics at a private school in Kyiv, said if China backs Russia “openly” Russia will win the war.

But so far, “we are winning”, she said.

Beijing casts its position as “neutral”, but many in Kyiv doubt the term.

“This is a pro-Russian neutrality, as China implements the vassalisation of Russia,” Alexander Merezhko, a top foreign policy official in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s lower house of parliament, told journalists in mid-May.

As Moscow faces spiralling economic isolation and diplomatic ostracism, its role as a global or even regional player is going downhill – and Beijing fills the void, even in Russia’s ex-Soviet stomping ground from Central Asia to Belarus.

As the West decreases its reliance on Russian energy supplies and imposes draconian sanctions, Moscow is boosting oil, gas, coal and timber exports to China – at discounted prices.

Russia’s diminished, “junior” part in the alliance with China looks especially ironic given it was Soviet Russia that played a key role in installing a Communist government in Beijing in 1949.

Red Moscow also laid the foundation of China’s resurgence by providing key technologies from the construction of iron smelters to the development of a nuclear bomb.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu attend a meeting in Moscow, Russia, April 16, 2023. Sputnik/Pavel Bednyakov/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Putin, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu attend a meeting in Moscow, Russia [File: Sputnik/Pavel Bednyakov/Pool via Reuters]

Visits and envoys

Xi visited Moscow in March, but cut the trip short.

He also thwarted Putin’s expectations to sign deals on massive investments and the construction of a new natural gas pipeline to China.

Only a month after leaving Moscow, Xi called Zelenskyy, and the immediate outcome was minuscule.

Summarising their hourlong conversation, Zelenskyy tweeted about a “powerful impetus to bilateral ties” and hailed the appointment of a seasoned diplomat as a special peace envoy to Kyiv.

The diplomat, Li Hui, served as an ambassador to Russia between 2009 and 2019. He speaks fluent Russian, is on friendly terms with Putin, and even received an award from the Kremlin chief.

But to Kyiv, such knowledge of Russia is a plus.

“Undoubtedly, this man absolutely understands how wild Russian society is,” Zelenskyy’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in late April.

Li arrived in Kyiv on May 16 and met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“Ukraine does not accept any proposals that would involve the loss of its territories or the freezing of the conflict,” Kuleba’s office said in a statement after the meeting, which ended, as expected, without a breakthrough.

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Unraveling the Mystery: The Curious Case of 52 Weeks in a Year Despite 4 Weeks per Month

Ody Team



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Time, an intangible force that governs our lives, is divided into various units to bring structure to our existence.The interplay of leap years, irregular month lengths, and the 4-week-month cycle harmoniously crafts the curious phenomenon of 52 weeks in a year, answering the question of how many weeks in a year.

Among these units, weeks and months stand as fundamental components, each offering its own rhythm and cadence. A perplexing puzzle arises when we consider the relationship between weeks and months: why does a year, which comprises 12 months, have 52 weeks and not 48 weeks, given that there are typically 4 weeks per month? In this exploration, we embark on a journey to demystify this conundrum, examining the intricate interplay of calendars, leap years, and the fascinating history that shapes the way we measure time.

The Dance of Weeks and Months: A Seeming Paradox

At first glance, the arithmetic seems straightforward: with four weeks per month, shouldn’t a year consist of 48 weeks? However, this simple calculation belies the complexity of calendar systems and the irregularities that emerge when trying to fit neatly divisible units of time.

The Gregorian Calendar: A Key Player

Navigating the intricate dance of leap years and month irregularities provides the intriguing answer to the query: how many weeks in a year? To comprehend this enigma, we must turn our attention to the Gregorian calendar—the most widely used calendar system in the world today. In the Gregorian calendar, a standard year is composed of 365 days, divided into 12 months. This division creates a challenge when reconciling months and weeks due to the uneven number of days in a month.

Leap Years: An Essential Adjustment

The fusion of leap years, varying month lengths, and the steadfast 4-week cycle yields the definitive response to the oft-asked question: how many weeks in a year?The addition of leap years is the crux of the matter. A leap year, occurring every four years, serves as a corrective mechanism to account for the discrepancy between the calendar year and the actual time it takes for Earth to complete its orbit around the sun. Leap years add an extra day, February 29th, to the calendar. This adjustment ensures that the calendar remains synchronized with the astronomical year.

Interestingly, the introduction of leap years influences the distribution of weeks in a year. Since leap years have 366 days—52 weeks and 2 days—the balance between the 4-week-month cycle and the leap year adjustment creates the familiar pattern of 52 weeks in a year.

Weeks and Months: A Harmonious Imbalance

To dissect this phenomenon, let’s delve into the interaction between weeks and months within a leap year and a non-leap year.

  1. Non-Leap Year (365 days): In a non-leap year, 365 days are divided into 12 months, each averaging 30.44 days. While most months have 30 or 31 days, February has 28 days. This irregularity affects the consistency of the 4-week-month cycle.
  2. Leap Year (366 days): In a leap year, the additional day accommodates the 4-week-month cycle. Months in a leap year have 30 or 31 days, but February has 29 days. This extra day contributes to the harmonious alignment of 52 weeks within the year.

Cultural and Historical Influences

In unraveling the curious interaction between leap years, irregular months, and the consistent 4-week cycle, we uncover the precise solution to the timeless query of how many weeks in a year.The origin of the 7-day week, widely adopted today, has cultural and historical roots that span across civilizations. The ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, and Romans all contributed to the development of this temporal framework. Over time, religious and societal practices solidified the 7-day week’s prevalence.

In the context of months, the lunar calendar used by many ancient cultures contributed to the variation in month lengths. Lunar months, determined by the moon’s phases, resulted in months of varying durations. When the Roman calendar was reformed to align with the solar year, the challenge of reconciling lunar and solar cycles further contributed to the irregular month lengths.

Calculating Weeks in a Year: A Precarious Balance

By skillfully accommodating leap years and the ebb and flow of month lengths, we arrive at the calculated answer to the frequently pondered question: how many weeks in a year?The calculation of weeks in a year is a delicate equilibrium between the 4-week-month cycle and the need to synchronize the calendar with astronomical realities. The introduction of leap years, while seemingly unrelated to weeks, plays a pivotal role in creating the consistent pattern of 52 weeks within a year.

Cultural Significance and Implications

Amidst the intricate interplay of calendar mechanics, leap years, and month irregularities, we find the definitive solution to the intriguing question: how many weeks in a year? The 52-week pattern, despite the irregularities of months, has become ingrained in our daily lives. It influences the way we plan schedules, allocate workdays, and celebrate annual events. The harmonious blend of weeks and months provides a sense of balance, even as we navigate the complexities of time.


Within the tapestry of calendar complexities, the synchronization of leap years, month lengths, and the steadfast 4-week cycle seamlessly unveils the precise answer to the perennial question: how many weeks in a year? The perplexing relationship between 52 weeks in a year and the 4-week-month cycle is a testament to the intricacies of calendar systems, leap years, and the historical evolution of how we measure time. This enigma reveals the delicate balance achieved through the interplay of irregular month lengths and the correction introduced by leap years. As we ponder this curious case, we gain a deeper appreciation for the remarkable precision and artistry inherent in the human endeavor to tame the boundless flow of time.

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US accuses Russia of ‘harassing’ drones in Syria, releases video




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The United States has accused Russian fighter jets of flying dangerously close to several of its drones over Syria, setting off flares and forcing the MQ-9 Reapers to take evasive action.

US Air Forces Central released a video of Wednesday’s encounter, showing a Russian SU-35 fighter closing in on the drone.

Footage showed the Russian pilot positioning his aircraft in front of the Reaper and turning on the afterburner, dramatically increasing speed and air pressure and making it harder to operate the drone, the air force said in comments accompanying the video.

So-called parachute flares were also released.

“The Russian SU-35 fighter aircraft employed parachute flares in the flight path of US MQ-9 aircraft,” the air force said. “Against established norms and protocols, this forced US aircraft to conduct evasive manoeuvres.”

Three US drones were airborne at the time of the incident on Wednesday morning, Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich, the commander of the Ninth Air Force in the Middle East, said in a statement.

He accused the Russian aircraft of “harassing the drones”, which he said were engaged in a mission against ISIL (ISIS).

Russian military aircraft engaged in unsafe and unprofessional behaviour while interacting with US aircraft in Syria,” he said, adding that the actions threatened the safety not only of US forces but also Russian forces.

Army General Erik Kurilla, head of US Central Command, added that Russia’s violation of ongoing efforts to clear the airspace over Syria “increases the risk of escalation or miscalculation”.

About 900 US forces are deployed to Syria to work with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIL. No other details about the drone operation were released, and the statements did not reveal where the incidents took place.


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China-Central Asia Summit versus G7 meet




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This win-win cooperation, based on mutual benefit, is China’s version of the New World Order

At a time when, on May 19, the Western allies of the US were deliberating their shared future at the 49th G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, and reaffirming their support for Ukraine which is thousands of miles away from Japan, Chinese President Xi Jinping was speaking at China-Central Asia Summit in Xian, offering economic grants for enhancing the financial capacity of Central Asian States. Western media, comparing both events, kept pitching the idea that China is consolidating its influence over former Soviet republics because Russia is fixed in the Ukraine conflict.

However, I think otherwise: China has been present in Central Asia for 20 years, and the China Central Asia trade is too big to ignore. The China-Central Asia Summit was attended by all five former Soviet republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Xi’s speech at the event promised a development path independently chosen by all six countries with a focus on respecting and safeguarding their sovereignty, security, independence and territorial integrity. In the China-Central Asia Summit declaration, the participant states agreed to increase trade, boost rail and road connectivity, increase flight connections and speed up the construction of cross-border railway connecting China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

They approved mechanisms to boost cooperation in areas such as fossil fuels, renewable energy, education, science, tourism and healthcare. They also decided to explore potential for further agricultural cooperation, and China agreed to increase imports of agricultural products from Central Asia. It is pertinent to mention here that China will provide 26 billion yuans of financing support and grants to Central Asian countries.

The trade between China and Central Asia has touched a new limit of $70 billion last year, with Kazakhstan sharing $31 billion. While in Hiroshima, G7 offered support to Ukraine, pledging to strengthen disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, towards the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Interestingly, the talk about a world without nuclear weapons was held in Hiroshima which was the first victim of US nuclear power. According to Reuters News Agency, China has, with its engagement, put itself at the forefront of the race for political influence and energy assets in the resource-rich regions, while Russia is distracted by its war in Ukraine and the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has diminished the US presence in the region. In believe Russia and China are on the same page as long as the Global South perspective is concerned, and both have their parallel stakes in Central Asia while the US does not enjoy the same leverage in the region that China and Russia do. Russia is linked with the region through history, language and huge labour force of Central Asian States that works in Russian cities and sends huge remittances to their home countries while China is constantly investing in the Central Asian economy, unlike America which offers money in return of military bases.

The US has, in the past, invested in social activities of Central Asian States through NGOs but a crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs in 2010 dented US political base. Central Asian analysts believe China is offering trade and financial support to Central Asian States without demanding any help against any third country. They believe the Ukraine war offers lessons for every country that borders either China or Russia. Experts say that the China-Central Asian Summit by reiterating “we will jointly foster a new paradigm of deeply complementary and high-level win-win cooperation” has sent a loud and clear message that it wishes to enhance the economic capacity of all Central Asian States.

This win-win cooperation, based on mutual benefit, is China’s version of the New World Order. Wherever China is engaging in any country, it is proposing dialogues based on mutual benefit. China is, therefore, writing a new history of refraining from self-serving demands in exchange for cooperation. The China-Central Asia summit concluded with mutual cooperation, prosperous, harmonious, and well connected’ Central Asia.

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