Putin to begin 2-day visit to China on Thursday

Russian President Vladimir Putin is slated to arrive in China on Thursday, just days after starting a new term in office.

The two-day official visit marks his first visit to a foreign country since he began his fifth term on May 7.

Russia's presidential office says Putin will hold summit talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Thursday, and that the two leaders will sign joint documents.

Putin's delegation will include Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, new Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, a string of deputy prime ministers and heads of state-owned enterprises, who will take part in an expanded meeting.

In a written interview with China's state-run Xinhua news agency published on Wednesday, Putin said Russia-China relations have reached the highest level ever.

He stressed that Russia will strengthen its ties with China in various sectors, including the economy.

In another development, presidential aide Yury Ushakov on Wednesday praised China for not participating in the international conference to forge a peace process for Ukraine, to be hosted by Switzerland next month.

He said Russia appreciates the "wise, balanced position" of its Chinese partners regarding China's nonparticipation in the event.

The aide also said Putin and Xi will discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Observers say Putin aims to gain China's understanding for Russia's stance in the Ukrainian situation while confirming solidarity between Moscow and Beijing as they step up their confrontational stance against Western powers.