He is now readying to meet more than 20 leaders as Beijing kicks off a Winter Olympics it hopes will be a soft-power triumph and shift focus away from a build-up blighted by a diplomatic boycott and Covid fears.

Xi and Putin will meet in the Chinese capital before their nations release a joint statement reflecting their “common views” on security and other issues, a top Kremlin adviser said at a Wednesday press briefing.

The two strongmen will then attend the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday evening.

Spiralling tensions with the West have bolstered ties between the world’s largest nation and its most populous, and Putin was the first foreign leader to confirm his presence at Friday’s opening ceremony.

He hailed Russia’s “model” relations with Beijing in a December phone call with Xi, calling his Chinese counterpart a “dear friend”.

Article by Putin

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency carried an article from Putin on Thursday in which the Russian leader painted a portrait of two neighbours with increasingly shared global goals.

“Foreign policy coordination between Russia and China is based on close and coinciding approaches to solving global and regional issues,” Putin wrote.

He also hit out at US-led western diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Olympics that were sparked by China’s human rights record.

“Sadly, attempts by a number of countries to politicise sports for their selfish interests have recently intensified,” Putin wrote, calling such moves “fundamentally wrong”.

For its part, China has become more vocal in backing Russia in its dispute with NATO powers over Ukraine.

Last week, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi called Russia’s security concerns “legitimate”, saying they should be “taken seriously and addressed”.

Moscow is looking for support after its deployment of 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine prompted Western nations to warn of an invasion and threaten “severe consequences” in response to any Russian attack.

China enjoyed plentiful support from the Soviet Union -- the precursor to the modern Russian state -- after the establishment of Communist rule in 1949, but the two socialist powers later fell out over ideological differences.

Relations got back on track as the Cold War ended in the 1990s, and the pair have pursued a strategic partnership in recent years that has seen them work closely on trade, military and geopolitical issues.

Those bonds have strengthened further during the Xi Jinping era at a time when Russia and China find themselves increasingly at odds with western powers.

Other leaders set to enjoy Xi’s hospitality during the Games include Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, Kazakhstan’s Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Poland’s Andrzej Duda.

In total around 21 world leaders are expected to attend the Games.

A majority of those leaders rule over non-democratic regimes, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, with 12 labelled either “authoritarian” or a “hybrid regime”.

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