Chinese national wounded trying to leave Ukraine, Beijing says

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin attends a news conference in Beijing, China November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

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BEIJING, March 2 (Reuters) - A Chinese national was injured by gunshot while trying to leave Ukraine, China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday, marking the first confirmed case of a Chinese casualty as a result of the Russian invasion.

Unlike many countries, China did not tell its roughly 6,000 citizens in Ukraine to leave the country in the days leading up to last Thursday's invasion by Russia, announcing evacuation plans soon after it had begun.

"A Chinese national was injured by a gunshot while evacuating on his own on March 1 Beijing nighttime," spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular daily media briefing, adding that the person was not in critical danger.

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Wang did not respond to a question on whether the wounded Chinese national had been shot by a Russian or Ukrainian.

The ministry said more than 2,500 Chinese nationals had been relocated from Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Ukraine to "take all necessary measures" to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens there during a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dymtro Kuleba.

China has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine or to call it an invasion, and has repeatedly called for a negotiated solution.

Some remaining Chinese nationals in Ukraine have taken to social media to express their fears, and their anxieties over whether they would be able to leave.

Initial reports of an injured Chinese person went viral on Tuesday, racking up over 130 million views on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

The person was shot while travelling from eastern Ukraine to the western city of Lviv, according to a Weibo post published by state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday.

Comments underneath were rife with speculation about the nationality of the shooter, with many placing the blame on Ukrainian "Nazis", echoing the Kremlin line, or on Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky's decision to arm civilians.

Chinese social media has overwhelming favoured Russia's position in the conflict.

"It's a problem in itself that the president arms the civilians," wrote user wonderfulpassby, receiving 14,000 likes.

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Reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe and Alison Williams

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