China told Russia to delay Ukraine invasion until after Winter Olympics, report claims
Thursday - 03/03/2022 06:52
Senior Chinese officials reportedly told their Russian counterparts not to invade Ukraine until after the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine until the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to reports.
The New York Times, citing US and European officials and a Western intelligence report, revealed on Wednesday that senior Chinese officials had some level of knowledge about Russia’s plans or intentions to invade Ukraine before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the operation last week.
The request came in early February after Washington informed Beijing of the Russian troop build-up, in the hopes communist leaders would pressure their ally to stand down, a source confirmed to Reuters.
Russia waged war with Ukraine four days after the Olympics ended, and Mr Putin escalated his military advance and rhetoric in the hours after the closing ceremony ended.
It was reportedly unclear if the discussions reached Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Putin.
A China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said it wasn’t clear if the authoritarian leaders were in cahoots.
“Given the evidence we have so far, I think we can’t rule out either possibility definitely – that Xi didn’t know (which is bad) and that Xi may have known (which is also bad),” Bonny Lin said.
China has denied The New York Times report.
“The claims mentioned in the relevant reports are speculations without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China,” said Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
The US State Department, the CIA and the White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Russian and Belarusian athletes were given the all-clear on Wednesday to compete at the upcoming Winter Paralympics, which open this week under the shadow of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has urged sporting federations across the world to exclude athletes from Russia as well as Belarus, which hosted troops before the invasion.
But on Wednesday, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) held a meeting and posted a brief statement saying athletes from the two countries would be allowed to compete as “neutrals”.
“They will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table,” the committee said.
Much of the sports world has reacted in solidarity with Ukraine. FIFA kicked Russia out of the 2022 World Cup, while rugby’s world governing body banned Russia and Belarus from all international events “until further notice”.
Mr Putin, an accomplished judoka, was also suspended as honorary head of the International Judo Federation.