Since the beginning of the war, Ukrainian President Zelenskyj has been waiting for talks with Xi Jinping.
Now China's head of state and party leader picked up the phone.
Munich/Beijing/Kiev – China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj have called each other for the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine war.
Both sides announced this on Wednesday.
Zelenskyi also announced that a new ambassador to China had been appointed.
He believes that both "will give a strong impetus to the development of our bilateral relations," Zelenskyy said on Twitter - also in Chinese.
China, in turn, wants to send a special envoy for Eurasian affairs to Ukraine for talks, Xi Jinping said.
China also wants to send humanitarian aid to Kiev.
In the call, Xi Jinping referred to the war as the "Ukraine crisis," as China has been doing since the invasion began in February 2022.
This "crisis" can only be ended through "dialogue and negotiations," Xi told Zelenskyy, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
"Mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the political foundation of China-Ukraine relations," Xi said.
Beijing will focus on promoting peace talks and seek a ceasefire as soon as possible.
Initially, no further details about the conversation from the perspective of Ukraine were known from Kiev.
China's Xi thanks Zelenskyy for helping Ukraine evacuate
Nothing surprising has come out of Beijing either.
Xi avoided criticism of Russia in the conversation, and the statement also lacked any call for a possible withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
Instead, Xi referred to the 12-point plan for resolving the "crisis" in Ukraine that China presented earlier this year.
In the West in particular, the plan was dismissed as insubstantial and unhelpful;
Ukraine had also reacted skeptically to the plan.
If Xi also had more specific things to say in the conversation with Zelenskyy, it initially remained unknown.
After all, Xi thanked Zelenskyy for the "great support in the evacuation of Chinese citizens last year".
China had only begun an evacuation mission several days after Russia's war of aggression began.
According to government information, around 6,000 Chinese citizens were in Ukraine at the end of February 2022, including many students.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Zelenskyj praises China's successes
Since the beginning of the war, Zelenskyy has been pushing for direct contact with Xi, for a long time without any response.
In early April, Xi first indicated that he was ready to speak to Zelenskyy.
Information on Zelenskyj's statements in the phone call is only available from the Foreign Ministry in Beijing.
Accordingly, Zelenskyy congratulated Xi Jinping on his third appointment as President in March 2023, recognized China's extraordinary achievements and expressed his conviction that China will successfully master the various challenges and continue to advance under Xi's leadership.
Zelenskyj had last spoken to Xi on the phone in 2021 - and in that seemingly distant pre-war period he praised China as "Ukraine's number one trading and economic partner".
He hopes that Ukraine will become "a bridge to Europe for Chinese companies".
From 2019 until the invasion, China was Ukraine's largest trading partner, ahead of Russia.
According to a study by the US think tank Council of Foreign Relations, the People's Republic was the largest buyer of Ukrainian arms, and Ukraine, conversely, was also China's second largest arms supplier after Russia.
China sacrificed all of this in the strategic decision to remain loyal to Putin.
In Kiev, dissatisfaction with China's pro-Russian "neutrality" has recently increased noticeably.
"China's position is becoming less and less acceptable to us," Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk said at an event in the spring.
"We must prepare a new strategy for relations with Beijing."
China doesn't want to pour "fuel on the fire," says Xi Jinping
As a member of the United Nations Security Council, China will "not add fuel to the fire," Xi said to Zelenskyy - an accusation that Beijing has regularly leveled at the United States and NATO since the beginning of the war.
Apparently referring to Russian threats to escalate the war nuclear, Xi said, "In a nuclear war there is no winner.
In dealing with the nuclear issue, all parties concerned should remain calm and reserved, looking to the future and destiny of themselves and of humanity as a whole.” That, at least, should reassure Kiev.
As long as Xi repeatedly opposes the use of nuclear weapons, this is unlikely to be an option for Putin.
But representatives of Beijing also cause unrest again and again.
A few days ago, China's ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, questioned the sovereignty of Ukraine and the other ex-Soviet states in a controversial TV interview.
China's foreign ministry tried to put Lu's statements into perspective: Beijing of course recognizes the sovereignty of these states, it said.
China is neutral in the Ukraine war
China always emphasizes that it is a suitable mediator due to its neutral stance in the conflict.
In fact, however, Beijing repeatedly sought proximity to Russia.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have been on the phone regularly in recent months.
The two presidents also met in person in the Kremlin in March.
Xi had not responded to offers of talks from Kiev until the phone call with Zelensky on Wednesday;
Xi has also so far refused to visit Kiev.
Whether the phone call will change anything is uncertain.
China blames the US and NATO for the escalation of the conflict.
To this day, China has not condemned the Russian invasion, which violated international law, and the war crimes committed by Russia's soldiers in Ukraine.
Since last year, the People's Republic has been importing raw materials such as oil and gas from Russia at significantly lower prices, and China's exports to its neighboring country have also recently increased significantly.
Claims by the United States that China is considering supplying weapons to Russia have not yet been substantiated.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement that the phone call showed that Beijing was ready to engage in negotiations.
So far, Moscow has also shown little interest in talks with Kiev to Beijing.
The war in Ukraine, which has been going on for 14 months, has reached a turning point.
Kiev is preparing a counter-offensive that could begin in the coming weeks.
Despite the bloodiest battles of the war so far, the Russian winter offensive had brought Moscow only small gains in territory.