China supports Russia in maintaining its national stability, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Sunday, a day after an aborted mutiny by the Wagner group of heavily armed mercenaries.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko held talks in Beijing on “international” issues on Sunday following the most serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
“The Chinese side expressed support for the efforts of the leadership of the Russian Federation to stabilise the situation in the country in connection with the events of June 24 and confirmed its interest in strengthening the cohesion and further prosperity of Russia,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
China’s foreign ministry initially said only that Rudenko had exchanged views with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sino-Russian relations as well as “international and regional issues of common concern”.
It later said China supports Russia in maintaining its national stability and that the recent escalation in tensions in Russia was Russia’s “internal affairs”.
It was unclear when Rudenko arrived in Beijing, or whether his visit to China, a key ally of Russia, was in response to the apparent rebellion led by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The mutiny was aborted on Saturday in a deal that spared Prigozhin and his mercenaries from facing criminal charges in return for Prigozhin pulling his fighters back to base and moving to Belarus.
China earlier made no comment on the rebellion that Putin said threatened Russia’s very existence while Western leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden said they were closely monitoring the situation.
“China will support Russia while stressing no interference of its internal affairs,” prominent Chinese military expert and TV commentator Song Zhongping told Reuters.
“Prigozhin realises that it is difficult to achieve the desired results through this rebellion.”
Prigozhin had said his “march” on Moscow was intended to remove corrupt and incompetent commanders he blames for botching the war in Ukraine.
The rebellion has been closely followed by Chinese media, which has largely refrained from comment ahead of any official remarks.
But Chinese state-controlled Global Times said on Saturday that hyping up the “mutiny” of Prigozhin and creating an “illusion” Russia has many internal contradictions and “the building is collapsing” amounted to the latest attack by Western media and another attempt to undermine Russian social unity.
Many Chinese citizens expressed support for Putin on social media.
“You can do it, Russia!” multiple social media posts read.
China’s Embassy in Russia told Chinese media outlet Southern Metropolis Daily on Saturday that the region around Moscow was calm.