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A Putin ally met with China’s top leader, highlighting ties as Russia grows more isolated.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s close ally met with China’s top leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday, a sign of the countries’ alignment amid Russia’s deepening international isolation.

Dimitri A. Medvedev, a former Russian president and prime minister, held an earlier unannounced meeting with Mr. Xi in Beijing as Chinese and Russian navy ships began a week-long joint exercise in the East China Sea.

China has mounted a significant, if largely muted, response to international condemnation of Mr Putin. Russia has backed China’s claim to the island democracy of Taiwan, and the US and Europe have imposed sanctions and increased trade between the two countries as they try to strangle the Russian economy.

Still, China appears reluctant to publicly support Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, refraining from supplying arms or actively supporting Moscow’s efforts to lift Western sanctions.

“Russia has tried to portray a better relationship with China than the reality,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Washington-based Stimson Center. “It shows how desperate they are and how China has not helped them as much as they would have liked.”

Mr. Medvedev is a longtime ally of Putin and has emerged as the government’s most outspoken voice advocating a hard line against Ukraine and its allies, primarily the United States. He is the deputy chairman of Mr. Putin’s Security Council and the head of Mr. Putin’s ruling United Russia party.

Mr Medvedev said in a brief video address after the meeting with Mr Xi that he had discussed “cooperation between the two ruling parties” and “our strategic partnership in all areas”.

For the Kremlin, the meeting served as effective counterprogramming ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s scheduled meeting with President Biden. On Monday, Mr. Putin himself met with Belarusian President Alexander G. Lukashenko to discuss deepening economic and military ties with the close Russian ally.

In Beijing, Mr Xi told Mr Medvedev that relations between the two countries had “stood the test of international change” and that their partnership was a “long-term strategic choice made by both sides”, according to China’s state broadcaster. Central Television.

Mr Xi stressed that China actively supported the idea of ​​peace talks on Ukraine and said that China hoped that “relevant parties would exercise reasonable restraint” in the crisis.

The military exercises, annual naval drills held since 2012, mark the culmination of a year that began with China and Russia pledging an “unlimited” partnership on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then, Beijing has kept funds flowing to buy Russian oil as the US and Europe imposed sanctions. Although Mr Putin referred to “questions and concerns” raised by Mr Xi when they met in person in September, the countries’ economic and military ties continue to deepen.

The exercise, involving Russian guided missile cruisers and Chinese destroyers, will include joint air defense and anti-submarine operations to improve coordination and cooperation between the two navies, according to a statement from the foreign ministries of both countries.

Military cooperation between the two countries has been increasing over the past decade, although Russia and China are not formal allies who would come to each other’s defense in war. Both see the US as their main security threat and want to establish an alternative to the European and US-led international order.

During a meeting in Moscow in October, Mr. Putin praised the state of relations with China, saying they had “reached an unprecedented level of openness, mutual trust and effectiveness in recent decades.”

Zixu Wang contributed reporting.

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