WASHINGTON -- Evidence is mounting that Russia launched a premeditated war of aggression in Ukraine despite weeks of denials and promises of diplomacy -- and that China knew of the plan.
China's top priority was not preserving world peace but rather protecting its Winter Olympics from being spoiled by news of yet another Russian invasion of a much smaller neighbour, The New York Times reported Wednesday (March 2).
"Senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing," the Times reported, citing senior US officials and a European official, all of whom saw a classified report by a Western intelligence agency.
China, embarrassed by the publicity, has repeatedly denied asking Russia to postpone its invasion until after the Beijing Winter Olympics, as reported by AFP and the Times.
The Winter Games started February 4 and ended February 20. Russian forces invaded Ukraine on multiple fronts February 24.
Duplicity and complicity
The report describes prolonged Russian and Chinese duplicity and complicity.
"Senior Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge about Russia's war plans or intentions before the invasion started last week," said the Times, quoting the classified intelligence report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping conferred in Beijing February 4, vowing to stick together in a "new era" of global political and military order.
"Friendship between the two states has no limits," they said in a joint statement released after the meeting. "There are no 'forbidden' areas of co-operation."
In addition, Russian troop movements from the Far East to the war zone before the invasion "indicated a high level of trust between Russian and Chinese officials".
Ever since the Russian troop buildup along the Ukrainian border started early last year, Russian officials had insisted that the troops were there solely for exercises.
When US officials, starting in November, began sharing intelligence with their Chinese counterparts and asking them to help prevent a Russian invasion, the Chinese insisted that it would not occur.
Worse yet, in December, US "officials received intelligence showing Beijing had shared the information with Moscow, telling the Russians that the United States was trying to sow discord and that China would not try to impede Russian plans," according to the Times.
On the heels of invasion, Chinese authorities also are ominously reasserting that Taiwan is part of China.
"Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China's territory. This is an irrefutable historical and legal fact," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference on February 23.
Putin repeats himself
The 2022 invasion of Ukraine marks the third time that the Putin regime has contemplated war during an Olympiad.
In 2008, Putin invaded Georgia during the Beijing Summer Games, "which upset some Chinese officials", according to the Times. He did not offend China again this year, waiting for the Winter Olympics to end.
Putin did not tarnish his own showcase, the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, waiting till the end of that Olympiad to invade Ukraine for the first time and annex Crimea.
By standing with Russia, China ended up backing a pariah.
On Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that "demands" Russia "immediately" withdraw from Ukraine, according to AFP.
Out of 193 nations, 141 voted for the non-binding resolution.
China was among the 35 countries that abstained, while just five -- Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, Belarus and Russia -- voted against it.