Senior Chinese officials had some knowledge of Russia’s plan to invade Ukraine prior to the Beijing Winter Olympics, a new intelligence report shows.
The information, compiled by a Western intelligence service, was deemed credible by officials and has been shared amongst the U.S. and allied governments, according to The New York Times.
The report alleged that Chinese officials told their Russian counterparts not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Games. The communication reportedly took place in “early February.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met before the opening of the Olympics on Feb. 4, jointly condemning NATO and declaring that their “friendship” has “no limits” and “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.” At the time, Putin also expressed opposition to Taiwan’s independence.
The day after the Olympics, which ended on Feb. 20, Putin deployed Russian troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, which he declared independent, under the pretext of “peacekeeping duties.”
The full-scale invasion of Ukraine began three days later, on Feb. 24. On Wednesday, the country’s State Emergency Service reported at least 2,000 civilian deaths, but an independent verification is impossible at this time.
NextShark also reported about a leaked Weibo post from the Chinese state-run Horizon News, which contained censorship instructions for Ukraine crisis coverage. The post, however, was published on Feb. 22, two days ahead of the full-scale invasion.
Officials reportedly had varying interpretations of the intelligence report, which remains classified. One said the material “did not necessarily indicate the conversations about an invasion took place between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin,” while others simply declined to provide further details, according to the Times.
In response, China on Thursday denounced the report and slammed it as “pure fake news.”
“The report by the New York Times is pure fake news. Such practice of diverting attention and blameshifting is despicable. The ins and outs of the developments of the Ukraine issue are very clear. The crux of the issue is known to all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters.
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, echoed the sentiment, saying, “The claims mentioned in the relevant reports are speculations without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China.”
China was one of 35 countries that abstained from voting on the demand that Russia end its invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday. Five states voted to oppose the move, including Russia, Belarus, Syria, Eritrea and North Korea.