China’s foreign minister spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday and called for a resolution to the crisis through negotiation, Chinese state media said, as Beijing started evacuating its citizens from the conflict-hit country.
China has been walking a diplomatic tightrope on the Ukraine conflict, balancing its oft-repeated insistence on the sanctity of state sovereignty with an unwillingness to call out its close ally Russia.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Dmytro Kuleba during a phone conversation that Beijing “deeply regrets that conflict has broken out between Ukraine and Russia, and is paying extreme attention to the harm suffered by civilians,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.
CCTV said the call took place at Ukraine’s request, and that Wang urged for the two countries to “find a way to resolve the issue through negotiations.”
“(China) supports all constructive international efforts that are conducive towards a political resolution,” Wang said.
According to CCTV, Kuleba said Ukraine “looks forward to China opening mediations in order to realise a ceasefire”.
China began evacuating its citizens from Ukraine in the last few days as fears grow for their safety with anger reportedly rising over Beijing’s refusal to condemn the Russian invasion.
One Chinese national was shot in the waist while travelling by road from eastern Ukraine to the western city of Lviv Tuesday, CCTV reported, adding that they were receiving hospital treatment. No further details were given.
A group of around 600 students had fled the capital Kyiv and the southern port city of Odessa on Monday, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.
They travelled by bus to neighbouring Moldova under an embassy escort and local police protection, with one evacuee saying the six-hour journey was “safe and smooth”.
An updated report said around 700-800 Chinese nationals were evacuated by road to Moldova on Tuesday.
While countries including the United States, Britain and Japan evacuated diplomats and urged citizens to leave in the weeks leading up to the invasion, China waited until Thursday to announce it would organise charter flights out.
But those flights have not yet materialised and Ukraine has now closed its airspace.
The Chinese ambassador in a video message Sunday denied he had fled Kyiv and said he was “waiting until it is safe” to evacuate.
China has said around 6,000 of its citizens are in Ukraine for work or study.
Its embassy in Kyiv initially urged those planning to leave to fix a Chinese flag to their vehicles, but reversed course after unverified social media claims emerged of rising hostility towards Chinese citizens.
China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday it was helping citizens leave the country but did not offer further details.