China downplays Wagner group rebellion to support Russia

China has described the attempted insurrection of Russia as “internal affairs” after the rebellion by Wagner mercenary group posed one of the serious challenges to Vladimir Putin’s 23-year rule in the country.

Chinese foreign ministry threw its weight behind its comprehensive strategic partner and said it supported Russia in maintaining its national stability.

The comments voicing support for Russia came as Russian deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko flew to Beijing to meet Chinese officials on Sunday.

“This is Russia’s internal affair,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

“As Russia’s friendly neighbour and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination for the new era, China supports Russia in maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity.”

A previously unannounced trip by Mr Rudenko came a day after the head of the private mercenary army Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin ordered his troops to march towards Moscow but later aborted the mission after reaching a deal with the Kremlin.

China’s foreign ministry initially only said that Mr Rudenko and foreign minister Qin Gang exchanged views on Sino-Russian relations and “international and regional issues of common concern”.

After shoring up support, the Russian foreign ministry: “The Chinese side expressed support for the efforts of the leadership of the Russian Federation to stabilize the situation in the country in connection with the events of June 24, and reaffirmed its interest in strengthening the unity and further prosperity of Russia.”

The ties between China and Russia have grown stronger following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine even as the two are not formal allies. China has refused to condemn Russia’s war directly but has raised concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine while urging for peace.

“Under the complex and severe international situation, it is necessary to — communicate in a timely manner, ensure the stable and long-term relationship between the two countries and safeguard the common interests of both sides,” Chinese vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said.

In a bid to restore a sense of stability following a recent uprising by mercenaries calling for his removal, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu appeared in public for the first time. On Monday, he conducted a troop inspection in Ukraine, aiming to convey a message of control.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken described the weekend’s events as “extraordinary” He recalled that 16 months ago Mr Putin appeared poised to seize the capital of Ukraine and now he has had to defend Moscow from forces led by his onetime protege.“I think we’ve seen more cracks emerge in the Russian façade,” Mr Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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