China on Sunday described an aborted rebellion by a Russian mercenary force as an “internal affair” and expressed support for the Kremlin’s efforts to maintain national stability.
“This is Russia’s internal affair,” said a Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson in a statement. “As Russia’s friendly neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination for the new era, China supports Russia in maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity.”
Separately, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu met Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko on Sunday.
Both sides “highly praised the current state of Russia-China relations,” according to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
They also talked about “prospects for further strengthening foreign policy coordination and cooperation between Moscow and Beijing at multilateral platforms,” the Russian foreign ministry said, adding the two countries will “work together to consistently strengthen” relations.
On Friday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of Russia’s paramilitary organization Wagner Group, accused Russia’s defense ministry of deliberately bombing Wagner fighters and claimed that Moscow’s justification for invading Ukraine was based on lies.
His troops reportedly took control of the strategic Russian city of Rostov-on-Don before advancing to within 200 kilometers from Moscow on Saturday. But less than 24 hours later, Prigozhin abruptly announced his fighters would turn back and halt their advance toward the capital.
Shortly after, Belarus released a statement that Prigozhin accepted Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s suggestion for the Wagner group to halt its operation in Russia and take further steps to ease tensions.
Russian state media reported that the Wagner leader will now move to neighboring Belarus and criminal charges against him would be dropped.
China’s statement pledging to support Russia in maintaining national stability suggests it is “not providing direct military support” to Russia, according to Ian Bremmer, president and founder of global political risk research and consulting firm Eurasia Group.
″[China is] thinking that they are not providing any military support for Russia, even when Putin’s back was up against the wall, when he might have gone down, when they didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Bremmer, pointing out that there was “almost no coverage in the Chinese state media.”
“They basically said, this is a Russian internal matter, which by the way, is what the Americans were saying as well, what NATO was saying as well,” Bremmer told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.
“China’s going to buy a lot of Russian commodities. They’re going to provide to the Russians a lot of low level chips and the rest — but they’re not providing direct military support,” said Bremmer.