LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - China, which Russia has sought as an ally since being cold-shouldered by the West over its invasion of Ukraine, has called the United States the "main instigator" of the crisis.
In an interview with the Russian state news agency TASS published on Wednesday, China's ambassador to Moscow, Zhang Hanhui, accused Washington of backing Russia into a corner with repeated expansions of the NATO defence alliance and support for forces seeking to align Ukraine with the European Union rather than Moscow.
"As the initiator and main instigator of the Ukrainian crisis, Washington, while imposing unprecedented comprehensive sanctions on Russia, continues to supply arms and military equipment to Ukraine," Zhang was quoted as saying.
"Their ultimate goal is to exhaust and crush Russia with a protracted war and the cudgel of sanctions."
The ambassador's reasoning closely followed one of Russia's own justifications of its invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and the devastation of entire cities, as well as driving more than a quarter of the population to flee their homes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin travelled to Beijing in February to meet President Xi Jinping as Russian tanks were massing on the Ukrainian border, agreeing what both states hailed as a "no limits" partnership superior to any Cold War alliance. read more
In the interview, Zhang said Sino-Russian relations had entered "the best period in history, characterised by the highest level of mutual trust, the highest degree of interaction, and the greatest strategic importance".
He railed against U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit last week to self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own, and said the United States was trying to apply the same tactics in Ukraine and Taiwan to "revive a Cold War mentality, contain China and Russia, and provoke major power rivalry and confrontation".
"Non-intervention in internal affairs is the most fundamental principle of maintaining peace and stability in our world," Zhang said, applying the principle to criticise Washington's Taiwan policy but not Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Russia calls the invasion a "special military operation" and says it was necessary not only to maintain its own security but also to protect Russian-speakers from persecution.
Ukraine and the West say these are baseless pretexts for an imperial war of aggression against a neighbour that gained independence when the Moscow-led Soviet Union broke up in 1991.
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