Russia has requested military assistance from China in Ukraine

Potential Chinese assistance would be a significant development in the invasion of Russia and could upset the grip of Ukrainian forces on the country.

Asked by CNN about the report of Russia’s request for military aid, Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the United States, said in a statement: “I have never heard of it.” .

Pengyu expressed concern about “the situation in Ukraine” — calling it “truly disconcerting” — and said China has provided and will continue to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Pengyu said, “The top priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even spiraling out of control. … China calls for exercising utmost restraint and preventing a massive humanitarian crisis.”

The Russian Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

News of Russia’s request comes before White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan meets with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, in Rome on Monday for a follow-up chat to the virtual meeting. of President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last November, according to National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne.

Sullivan told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that China’s support for Russia was a “concern.”

“We are also closely monitoring the extent to which China actually provides any form of support, material or economic, to Russia. That is one of our concerns. crusaders and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from economic sanctions,” Sullivan said.

Russia expanded its offensive into western Ukraine on Sunday, firing missiles near the city of Lviv and hitting a large military base near the Polish border, killing dozens as the war closes in on the territory of NATO.

According to local authorities, 35 people were killed and 134 injured at the military base, in what Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov described as a “terrorist attack” on peace and security “near the EU-border. NATO”.

US officials, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, have increasingly criticized Beijing’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. While Beijing has seemingly tried to strike a neutral tone on the international stage, Chinese domestic media coverage has encouraged Russian disinformation campaigns and portrayed the war as a “special military operation”. Psaki also tweeted on Wednesday that Beijing “apparently endorsed” Russia’s bogus claims that the United States is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine.

“Our assessment at this time is that (China) meets the requirements that have been put in place, but we will continue to encourage any country to think long and hard about where it wants to go — what role it wants to play. — in history as we all look back,” Psaki said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Sullivan told Bash on Sunday that the United States had made it clear to Beijing that there would be “absolutely consequences” for “full-scale” efforts to give the Kremlin a way around US sanctions.

“We will not allow this to continue and for there to be a lifeline for Russia from these economic sanctions from any country in the world,” he said.

Still, Sullivan said that while the United States thought “China, in fact, knew before the invasion that Vladimir Putin was planning something, they may not have understood the full extent of it.”

“Because it’s very possible that Putin lied to them the same way he lied to Europeans and others,” Sullivan told Bash.

While US officials have noted that China is respecting the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies against Russia, Biden recently said he was not ready to discuss his efforts to pressure China to help isolate Russia during the bloody Kremlin War.

“I’m not ready to comment on that at this time,” Biden told reporters at the White House in February.

Biden has spoken often about his conversations with Xi, frequently recalling the dozens of hours the two leaders spent with each other when they served as their country’s vice presidents. In his speeches, Biden often likes to recall having dinner with Xi on the Tibetan Plateau and describes the United States in one word: “opportunities.”

At the face-to-face meeting in Rome, Sullivan and Yang will also discuss issues Biden and Xi addressed during their virtual call last year, according to people familiar with the matter. The sources added that this meeting had been in the works for some time and that they did not expect any concrete results from it.

Since taking office, Biden has emphasized that he believes the United States is at an inflection point in its history and needs to show that global democracies can compete with autocratic regimes like China’s.

“To compete for the best jobs of the future, we also need to level the playing field with China and other competitors,” Biden said during his first State of the Union address earlier this month.

During the three-hour summit with his Chinese counterpart about four months ago, Biden raised concerns about human rights, Chinese aggression against Taiwan and trade issues. The Biden administration has made it clear that managing competition with China is a long-term economic and national security priority for the United States.

“How the United States, Europe, and Asia work together to secure peace, uphold our shared values, and advance our prosperity in the Pacific will be one of the most important efforts we undertake,” he said. Biden said at the Munich security conference last year.

While in Rome, Sullivan is also expected to meet with Luigi Mattiolo, diplomatic adviser to the Italian prime minister; the two men will discuss ongoing efforts to respond to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Horne’s statement.

Threat of nuclear escalation

Meanwhile, Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that while the Biden administration is “concerned about the possibility of escalation,” when it comes to Putin’s nuclear posture, “we haven’t seen anything that would require us to change our nuclear posture at the moment”.

“We’re watching this very closely, and obviously the risk of escalation with a nuclear power is serious, and it’s a different kind of conflict than other conflicts the American people have had over the years,” he said. he declared on “the state of the Union”. .”

Still, Sullivan supported the administration’s decision to reject a Polish offer to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine via the United States and a German airbase.

“The president listened to the assessment of his intelligence community, he listened to the advice of his military commanders, he consulted with his NATO allies, and he ultimately determined that the risk-benefit analysis of flying planes from NATO bases in disputed airspace over Ukraine didn’t make sense, wasn’t something he would allow,” he said, adding that the United States is focused on providing “other anti-aircraft systems that could help the Ukrainians make progress in terms of dealing with the threat that comes from the air from the Russian side.”

The national security adviser also reiterated Biden’s comments earlier this week that Russia would “pay a heavy price” if it chose to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, adding that Russia’s accusations against the ‘Ukraine preparing to deploy chemical weapons’ is an eye-opener, a saying that they themselves may be preparing to do so and then trying to blame someone else – it’s a page classic from the Russian playbook.”

This story has been updated with additional reactions and background information.

CNN’s Donald Judd, Jasmine Wright, Betsy Klein and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

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