Is China turning on Russia? Beijing calls Putin’s Ukraine invasion a war for the first time and refuses to supply airline parts

China called Putin’s attack on Ukraine a ‘war’ for the first time on Thursday, marking a shift in tone for Beijing which has towed the line between supporting and condemning Russia over the past two weeks.

‘We hope to see fighting and the war stop as soon as possible,’ state broadcaster CCTV cited foreign minister Wang Yi as saying on Thursday in a video conference call with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Wang called on all sides to calm down and to take more actions to prevent escalation in Ukraine, CCTV reported. 

China has yet to call the war an ‘invasion’, steering clear of language that would pit them against Russia on the international stage. 

China has toned down its support of Russia, but is still rejecting calls for it to join the West in sanctioning the invading nation. 

On Thursday, China refused to supply Russian airlines with aircraft parts, an official at Russia’s aviation authority. 

Russia will look to source parts from other countries including Turkey and India, according to Russian news agencies.

Boeing and Airbus have halted supply of components, in line with the sanctions, and almost all European nations have closed their airspace to Russian planes.

Wang described the Chinese-Russian relationship as ‘rock solid’ earlier in the week, but the change in tone suggests a shift in China’s view of the conflict.

Ukraine has asked Beijing to use its connections with the Kremlin to put an end to the invasion.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Saturday that he had received assurances that ‘China is interested in stopping this war’, raising hopes the country could act as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia.

China has claimed neutrality since Putin’s attack, abstaining from a UN general assembly resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its troops on March 2.

This week, China also said it would send £600,750 in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, an amount dwarfed by humanitarian aid sent by other nations.

The US House of Representatives approved a £10.4 billion aid package on Wednesday, whereas the total support offered by the UK equals around £400 million as of Monday.

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