Putin arrives in Beijing for summit talks with Xi

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in China for a two-day official visit. It's his first trip abroad since he began his fifth term in office.

The presidential plane carrying Putin landed in Beijing early Thursday morning. He was welcomed by Chinese officials as he stepped off the boarding ramp.

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

Putin's delegation includes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, new Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, a string of deputy prime ministers and heads of state-owned enterprises. They are expected to 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.

Presidential aide Yury Ushakov praised China for not participating in an international conference to be hosted by Switzerland next month. The gathering aims to build on a peace plan advocated by Ukraine. Ushakov said Russia appreciates the "wise, balanced position" of its Chinese partners.

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 the two sides as they step up their confrontational stance against Western powers.