Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has also been hit by Western sanctions, on Thursday thanked China for its support at “difficult times”.
Lukashenko met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a summit in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan.
“You have always been not only a solid and reliable friend for us but a serious support in these difficult times,” Lukashenko told Xi, according to Belarus state media.
Belarus has been hit with a wave of Western penalties for acting as a launching pad for Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and for a ferocious post-election crackdown in 2020.
“You know as well as I do what times these are,” Lukashenko — often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” — said, according to state news agency, Belta.
“We have always supported China on all matters of principle. Such as economic growth, unity, integrity of China, the ‘One China’ policy,” Belta quoted him as saying.
“We are reliable friends. Whatever it may cost us,” he added.
Xi’s visit to ex-Soviet Central Asia is his first trip abroad since the early days of the pandemic.
For Putin, the summit is a chance to show Russia has not been fully isolated despite Western efforts.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), whose leaders convened in Uzbekistan for the summit, comprises China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the ex-Soviet Central Asian nations.
It was set up in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions. Belarus is an observer state.