Putin: Moscow and Beijing Natural Allies

Putin: Moscow and Beijing Natural AlliesPutin: Moscow and Beijing Natural Allies

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised growing economic ties with "natural ally" Beijing as he hosted Chinese premier Li Keqiang for high-profile talks.

Li's three-day visit to Russia comes as the Kremlin is locked in a battle of wills with the West over Ukraine and is seeking to ramp up cooperation with Asia and Latin America, AFP reported.

"We are natural partners, natural allies, we are neighbors," Putin told Li during talks at the Kremlin.

"We are setting large-scale, absolutely realistic goals for ourselves and no doubt this will serve our peoples well," he added.

The Chinese prime minister for his part praised the "inexhaustible" potential for cooperation between China, the world's largest energy consumer, and Russia, one of the largest energy suppliers.

"We are witnessing a growing tendency of the development of our cooperation in all spheres," Li said. Li and Putin spoke after Russian and Chinese officials signed dozens of deals ranging from energy to banking to cars.

The two countries agreed to open a yuan-ruble swap line worth $24.5 billion to reduce dependence on the US dollar and promote bilateral trade and investment.

"A large amount of agreements have been signed," Putin said in remarks released by the Kremlin. "But it's not the quantity that matters. What's important is that they are promoting our real cooperation, and in very different fields, both in energy and hi-tech, which is especially important."

After a decade of tough negotiations, China and Russia inked a 30-year, $400-billion agreement in May that will eventually involve Moscow supplying Beijing with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually.

Once bitter foes during the Cold War, Moscow and Beijing have over the past years ramped up cooperation, driven by a desire to counterbalance US global dominance.

China has spoken out against Western sanctions against Russia and has called on all sides to reach a political settlement over Ukraine.

Ahead of his Moscow visit, Li travelled to Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He will also participate in a Europe-Asia summit in Milan later this week.