President Volodymyr Zelensky and China’s President Xi Jinping have agreed to sign a visa-free regime agreement between the two countries during a phone call, the President’s Office reported on July 13.

The leaders also discussed bilateral trade relations between countries. According to Zelensky, Ukraine could become a “bridge to Europe” for Chinese business.

“China is Ukraine’s trade and economic partner №1 in the world. And we are interested in the full realization of the potential of bilateral cooperation, especially in the areas of trade and major infrastructure projects,” said Zelensky.

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Trade between Ukraine and China has been growing for the second year in a row, the president said. According to the state statistics, trade turnover was $15.4 billion in 2020, which is $3 billion more than in 2019.

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During the call, Jinping also supported Zelensky’s project “Big Construction” and said that China was ready to help Ukraine.

Ukraine faces backlash for its strengthening relations with China, especially after withdrawing its support for a call for more scrutiny of human rights violations in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Associated Press, citing its sources, reported that China pressured Ukraine, threatening to withhold Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines supplies. The Chinese Embassy in Ukraine denied accusations.

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