Ukraine's foreign minister has asked China to provide security guarantees for Kyiv, in a lengthy interview containing some of the most direct criticisms of Moscow recently published by Beijing's state media.
Western powers and Ukraine have repeatedly urged China to condemn Russia's invasion as it tries to maintain a supposedly neutral stance, with the United States threatening consequences if Beijing provides military or economic support to Moscow.
"Ukraine is currently studying the possibility of acquiring security guarantees from permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, including China, and other major powers," Dmytro Kuleba was quoted as saying by official news agency Xinhua Saturday.
"We propose that China becomes one of the guarantors of Ukraine's security, this is a sign of our respect and trust in the People's Republic of China."
China in 2013 pledged to provide Ukraine with "security guarantees" if it is ever invaded or threatened with nuclear attack, but appeared evasive on the same issue in the wake of Russia's attack.
In response to a question about the guarantee last month, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman suggested that such "security assurances have clear limitations on the content and are triggered under specific conditions", in reference to a similar United Nations security resolution on non-nuclear states.
Chinese officials have often blamed US-led NATO for provoking Moscow's invasion and accused Western countries of escalating the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine.
Beijing's state media has also repeatedly amplified Russian propaganda surrounding the war and largely avoided attributing Ukrainian civilian deaths to Moscow's military aggression.
Kuleba has only had two calls with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi since the invasion began on February 24, while Wang met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in China last month and reiterated that cooperation between the two countries has "no limits".
In the Xinhua interview, Kuleba also accused Russia of having "compromised" Beijing's signature Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, warning that the consequences of the global food security crisis would threaten China's economy.
"We also believe that this war is not in China's interests," he was quoted as saying.
His remarks directly referred to Russia's actions as an "invasion" -- a term that Chinese officials and state media have sought to avoid.
"The situation is not escalating because of Ukraine, we are exercising our right to defend ourselves," he said, in an apparent rebuff of Chinese warnings against other states providing arms to Kyiv.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has not yet spoken publicly with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin the day after the February 24 invasion.