China has denied reports that Russia asked the Chinese government for military and economic assistance after the war in Ukraine began. "Recently, the U.S. has been constantly spreading disinformation against China. This is malicious," a Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday.
China has always played a constructive role in promoting peace talks, he said. The top priority now is for all parties to exercise restraint to de-escalate the situation, the spokesman added. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also denied the reports.
Earlier, English-language media had unanimously reported that, according to U.S. government officials, Russia had asked China for military and economic assistance after the war in Ukraine began.
According to the report, the government officials, who were not named, did not specify what weapons or munitions Moscow hoped to receive from Beijing. It also remained unclear how or if China responded to the requests, as reported Sunday by The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Financial Times, among others.
Russia has also asked for economic assistance to limit the impact of the sanctions, they said.
Communist China has so far sought a more neutral stance in the conflict over Ukraine. Direct support for ally Russia is likely to bring China into conflict with Ukraine's supporters - and these Western states represent the lion's share of the global economy.
The coinciding media reports came a day before U.S. President Joe Biden's National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, is scheduled to meet with China's top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, in Rome on Monday. According to U.S. reports, the meeting will also discuss Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine.
China denied a corresponding request by Russia as recently as Monday shortly after it became known.
The U.S. government has repeatedly warned China and Chinese companies against helping Russia circumvent sanctions. In such a case, Chinese companies could themselves become targets of U.S. punitive measures, it said.
Sullivan, speaking to CNN TV on Sunday, said the administration is "watching closely" the extent to which China grants Russia "material support or economic support." "That's one of our concerns," he said. But he said the U.S. government has clearly communicated to Beijing that the United States would not stand idly by if any country compensates Russia for the economic damage caused by the sanctions.
At the People's Congress session that ended Friday, China's government leader Li Keqiang had already called for "utmost restraint" in Russia's war in Ukraine to prevent a major humanitarian disaster.
However, he continued to avoid criticizing Russia for the invasion. The prime minister also spoke out against international sanctions against Russia because, in his view, they were harming the world's economic recovery.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov had previously said Moscow could no longer access foreign exchange reserves worth about $300 billion because of the sanctions. "That's about half of the reserves we had," he told Russian TV station Rossiya-1 on Sunday.
He pointed out that some of the gold and foreign exchange reserves were held in Chinese yuan and that the West was putting pressure on Beijing to restrict trade with Moscow. However, the minister expressed confidence that relations with China would continue to improve.
Image by Gerd Altmann