Xi Jinping had a parting comment about China for his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin as he concluded his two-day trip to Moscow.
On Tuesday evening, Mr Xi shook Mr Putin’s hand and talked about unprecedented change.
“Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years. And we are driving this change together,” he said.
“I agree,” replied Mr Putin, to which the Chinese leader responded: “Take care of yourself, dear friend, please” and waved goodbye to the Russian president who wished him a “safe journey”.
Mr Xi’s ominous farewell message comes just hours after it was reported that the Russian president condemned British plans to send to Ukraine tank ammunition that contains depleted uranium and said Moscow would be forced to respond accordingly.
“If all this happens, Russia will have to respond accordingly, given that the West collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component,” Mr Putin said on Tuesday. Britain has dismissed the warning and accused Mr Putin of stirring deliberate disinformation.
Mr Xi visited Moscow this week in his first state visit since gaining an unprecedented third term as president earlier this month in a further consolidation of his power.
“The Russian side held a grand welcome ceremony at the airport,” China’s state media reported. “The military band played the national anthems of China and Russia.”
During their meeting, the Russian side welcomed China’s proposals for peace in Ukraine.
Speaking at a joint press conference at the Kremlin after the second day of talks with his Chinese counterpart, Mr Putin said Beijing’s peace plan “correlates to the point of view of the Russian Federation”.
Earlier, US secretary of state Antony Blinken had said: “The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms.”
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that on the Ukraine issue, “the two sides stressed talks as the solution to the crisis and called for respect for security concerns of all countries in resolving the crisis”.
Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that “the high-level mutual trust and mature relations built between the Chinese and Russian leaders show that bilateral ties can withstand the impacts of the profound changes that the world is experiencing at the moment”.
Nato general secretary Jens Stoltenberg earlier warned that China appeared to be mulling arms supplies to Russia.
“We haven’t seen any proof that China is delivering lethal weapons to Russia but we have seen some signs that this has been a request from Russia and that this is an issue that is considered in Beijing by the Chinese authorities,” Mr Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Mr Xi also invited the Russian president to visit China this year for the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.