Multiple U.S. publications reported Monday, based on interviews with U.S. officials, that the Russian government had requested military and economic support from China for its war in Ukraine. CNN has since reported those Russian requests included food for its troops.
CNN reported two officials with knowledge of the matter said among the assistance Russia requested from China was pre-packaged, non-perishable military food kits, commonly referred to as “meals, ready-to-eat” or MREs. Russia’s request may indicate the Russian military’s struggles with keeping its invasion forces supplied.
Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine have already been documented complaining of a lack of food during the invasion. Russian forces were filmed appearing to loot food from a supermarket in the Ukrainian city of Kherson earlier this month after seizing control of the city.
U.S. officials have provided few details about other requests Russia has made of China for support in its Ukraine invasion. U.S. officials who spoke to publications on Monday declined to specify what types of military equipment Russia is requesting, with one citing the need to protect their methods of information collection.
The U.S. has already warned China against sharing economic support for Russia’s invasion.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN in an interview Sunday.
China is likely just as concerned about the consequences of providing military equipment to Russia.
One CNN source said the Russian request for food may be one China is willing to answer to, as it stops short of providing lethal assistance to Russia’s invasion forces.
One of the CNN sources said Chinese government officials have not yet reached an agreement on how to respond to Russia’s requests. Both CNN sources said China is still wary about meeting Russia’s requests for support.
Officials separately told CNN that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been unsettled by how the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine appears to have reinvigorated the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance.
During a Monday press conference, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lijian Zhao was asked about the alleged Russian requests for military support from China.
Zhao responded by saying, “Recently, the US has been maliciously spreading disinformation targeting China. China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent and clear. We have been playing a constructive part in promoting peace talks. The top priority at the moment is for all parties to exercise restraint, cool the situation down instead of adding fuel to the fire, and work for diplomatic settlement rather than further escalate the situation.”
Zhao was asked a second time during the Monday press conference to specifically answer whether Russia had requested support from China. Zhao did not specifically deny whether Russia has made such requests.
“In my previous answer . . I already made it clear that the US has been spreading disinformation,” Zhao repeated. “China has elaborated on its position on China-Russia relations on multiple occasions.”