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Russian, Chinese Leaders Hail 'New Era' At Kremlin Meeting

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Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 5.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have vowed to raise bilateral relations to a "higher level" as China's leader opened a three-day visit to Russia.

Putin told Xi in Moscow on June 5 that the visit was a "key event" in relations between the two neighbors, while Xi, who was met with full state honors at Moscow's Vnukovo airport, noted the relationship had withstood "trials and tribulations" over the years.

"Thank you again for your kind invitation to visit Russia," Xi said. "The relations between Russia and China are developing stably and at the moment are at their peak. Both sides support each other."

Russia's annexation of Ukraine's region of Crimea in March 2014 led to a serious rift between Moscow and its Western partners and its subsequent turn toward its neighbor to the east.

Each country has relied on the bilateral partnership even more so amid Moscow and Beijing's souring relations with the United States in recent years.

China and Russia in recent years have often voted in unison as permanent members of the UN Security Council, aligning their positions in regard to major international crises.

After meeting with Xi, Putin said that the two leaders had discussed "pressing global issues," according to the TASS news agency.

"We confirmed that Russia's and China's stances on the key global issues are similar or coincide," Putin said.

Xi said that his visit would "serve as an incentive for the development of Chinese-Russian relations, comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction in a new era," according to Russian media.

"We've managed to take our relationship to the highest level in our history," Xi said. "We will continue to improve our ties and we are ready to go hand in hand with you."

Putin's foreign-policy aide, Yury Ushakov, has said that Xi and Putin would sign a new declaration on their "global partnership and strategic cooperation, which are entering a new era."

The partnership is yielding growing bilateral trade, which has increased by 25 percent last year to hit $108 billion, Ushakov said, calling China "Russia's most important economic partner."

Ushakov said that "the positions of Russia and China are very close or coincide completely on most international issues," including the North Korean nuclear program, the crisis in Venezuela, and Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.

Major Russian and Chinese companies signed several cooperation agreements on the first day of Xi's visit.

China's Alibaba, Russian mobile-phone giant Megafon, Internet group Mail.ru, and the Russian sovereign investment fund RDIF reportedly inked a deal on a joint e-commerce venture called AliExpress Russia.

Mail.ru head Boris Dobrodeyev said the new company would become the "undisputed leader in Russian e-commerce."

Russian companies Novatek and Gazprombank also signed an agreement with Sinopec to sell gas in China.

Xi is set to attend a ceremony later on June 5 marking the launch of a Chinese car factory. He will also visit Moscow's zoo to hand over two pandas, and attend a gala concert with Putin at the Bolshoi Theater.

The two leaders will then head to St Petersburg to attend an economic forum hosted by Putin on June 6-7.

With reporting by AFP, TASS, AP, and dpa
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