Putin meets Chinese top diplomat, calls for unity at rally

Diplomatic movements are heating up ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks Wednesday with China's top diplomat, Wang Yi.

Putin said Russian-Chinese relations are developing just as the two countries planned in previous years, and everything is moving forward and developing, and new milestones are being reached.

He said he expects trade between their countries to reach 200 billion dollars by 2024.

Putin also said he is waiting for Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Moscow for a summit as planned.

Wang replied relations between their nations are mature, resilient and stable.

He said China would like to emphasize once again that the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries has never been directed against a third party and is not subjected to interference and provocation by any third party.

On the same day, Russia's parliament approved the suspension of the remaining nuclear arms control treaty it had signed with the United States. Putin had announced on Tuesday Moscow was halting its participation in the New START Treaty.

He said it is Western nations that started the war, and Russia is using its force to stop it.

Western leaders rejected Putin's claim. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said nobody is attacking Russia. He added Russia is the aggressor and Ukraine is the victim of aggression.

US President Joe Biden said Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, and its support for Ukraine will not waver.

Both sides are digging in their heels as the war continues and causes more and more casualties.

Putin spoke at a rally in a Moscow stadium and called for national unity. Russian media reports say about 200,000 government supporters attended the rally.