China has thrown Russia’s Vladimir Putin another sanction-busting lifeline by lifting wheat import restrictions in an economic boost to Moscow.
President Xi Jinping has backed keeping China fully open to wheat imports from Russia in spite of sweeping sanctions imposed by the West in a bid to stop Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Imports had been restricted in recent months over concern over Russia’s measures to prevent plant diseases, particularly in agricultural crops.
The move to keep the market open was reportedly part of a deal between Moscow and Beijing concluded earlier this month and is the latest sign of growing ties between the two states.
Russia, the world’s largest exporter of wheat, exported more than 30 million tonnes of the product from January through November last year.
The same year, Moscow sent 9.8 per cent of its total agricultural exports, including cereals, fishery products, meat and dairy to China.
It comes after experts predicted on Friday that China could buy more Russian energy and lend Moscow cash to help Putin weather sanctions imposed over his invasion of Ukraine.
Putin’s decision to launch military action against Ukraine will result in the US, UK and other NATO allies rolling out more punitive measures against Russia.
China and Russia have moved closer in recent years as both have faced rising tensions with the West.
Putin visited Beijing at the beginning of February for the start of the Winter Olympics.
He and President Xi Jinping issued a statement at the time which declared the ‘friendship between the two States has no limits’.
China backed Russia in opposing NATO expansion as the two nations accused the US, UK and others of adopting ‘ideologized Cold War approaches’ to international relations.