EU warns China not to help Russia wage war

Beijing appears to criticise EU's use of sanctions and insists Moscow's concerns must be addressed after talks with Brussels

The European Union has urged China not to assist Moscow in evading sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine amid concerns Beijing could offer indirect economic or even military aid.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel laid out the appeal in online talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping and prime minister Li Keqiang on Friday.

Dr von der Leyen described the exchanges as “frank” and said she had warned the Chinese leadership that their country would suffer “major reputational damage” in Europe if it offered “support to Russia’s ability to wage war”.

“We also made very clear that China should, if not support, at least not interfere with our sanctions,” she told journalists.

"China has an influence on Russia, and therefore we expect China to take its responsibility to end this war."

Relations with Beijing have long been a delicate dance for the EU as it seeks to balance economic ties and a desire to work together to combat climate change with profound political differences.

Washington has pushed the EU to take a tougher line with China, and the issue was discussed with national leaders when United States president Joe Biden attended a summit in Brussels last week.

In the exchange on Friday, the EU chiefs asked Beijing to stop trade retaliation towards member state Lithuania for increasing its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, to lift sanctions on members of the European Parliament blamed as pro-Taipei, and to address human rights concerns in Xinjiang.

Chinese exports

"We are not being naive. We're not being blind to the differences which exists between the EU and China," Mr Michel told reporters.

He pointed out that while 15 per cent of China’s exports go to the EU market, only 1.5 per cent go to Russia.

“We hope China will take into account the importance of its international image, and the importance of the economic relations between China and the EU,” he said.

The Chinese foreign ministry said the two sides had agreed on the importance of containing the conflict, but appeared to criticise the EU’s use of sanctions while insisting Moscow’s concerns needed to be addressed.

"We must not allow attempts to politicise and weaponise the world economy or use it as a tool to serve one's own agenda," foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a statement, warning of the economic fallout.

"The root cause of the Ukraine crisis is the regional security tensions in Europe that have built up over the years. A fundamental solution is to accommodate the legitimate security concerns of all relevant parties."

Further sanctions

The EU is preparing a new package of sanctions aimed to close off loopholes left in previous rounds and add new individuals to the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes. The fresh measures are expected to be laid out in the coming days and to be agreed as early as next week.

But they are not expected to include far-reaching steps requested by Poland and Baltic states like bans on energy imports, limits on road transport and barring Russian ships from ports, because a number of member states have denied their support for such a move.

On a visit to Kyiv, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola insisted more ambitious steps were needed.

"We spoke about the need for more and further reaching sanctions," she said in a statement after meeting Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal.

“We must go further still. Europe will meet this moment.”