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Putin and Xi Jinping rally allies at Astana summit

The Eastern bloc of countries supporting China and Russia attended the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the capital of Kazakhstan, a regional counterweight to Western alliances.

In this group photo distributed by Russia's state-run Sputnik agency, Vladimir Putin meets with Xi Jinping.(Sergei GUNEYEV / POOL / AFP)

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Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping brought together their main allies during the international summit in Astana, where the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is being held. This group of countries led by China and Russia and made up of former socialist republics, as well as India, Pakistan and Iran, was created as a regional counterweight to Western alliances.

During this summit, regional security was one a key focus for Putin. The Russian president emphasized the group's interest in ensuring the security of its members. For this reason, he presented a coordination plan to address various security challenges. He added that the group would adopt a special program to fight separatism and extremism.

In his public addresses, Putin reiterated that the war in Ukraine could end, or at least reach a truce, if Zelensky's administration accepts his terms. Last month, the Russian president proposed a ceasefire with highly unfavorable conditions for Ukraine. These included the withdrawl of Ukranian forces from regions occupied by Russian troops since 2014 and annexed by Russia in 2022. Ukraine rejected the proposal. 

Putin addresses Trump

In Astana, Putin also expressed he takes Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's comments about peace in Ukraine "very seriously." During his campaign, Trump claimed he could negotiate a ceasefire "within 24 hours," unlike Biden's approach.

"Mr. Trump claims, as a presidential candidate, declares that he is ready and wants to stop the war in Ukraine, we take this quite seriously," Putin said during the summit.

"Obviously, I don't know the possible proposals on how [Trump] wants to do that. And, of course, that is a key question. But I have no doubt that he says this sincerely. And we support it," he continued.

Joining him, Chinese leader Xi Jinping argued that the organization must fight the "Cold War mentality"and also called to enhance the group's security interests.

India, a full member of the organization, sent its foreign minister. Newly elected prime minister Narendra Modi did not attend, citing a busy agenda due to India's first parliamentary session following the elections.

Russia is not alone

For Vladimir Putin's regime, the annual Astana summit is an opportunity to send a counter message to the West's efforts to isolate Russia. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Western governments, led by the United States and the European Union, have employed sanctions as their primary tool against Russia, as well as against those who engage with the Kremlin's war economy.

Throughout the summit, delegations from the invited countries held meetings with each other. One of the most noteworthy meetings was between Russia and Iran, who were represented by their acting president following the recent death of Ebrahim Raisi in a plane crash.