Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin posed for photos prior to their talks in Beijing, China on Friday. Credit: Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Ukraine tensions continue to rise as Chinese leader Xi Jinping has joined Russian President Vladimir Putin in condemning NATO’s eastward expansion.

The joint statement by the two world leaders called on NATO to “respect the sovereignty, security and interests” of other countries.

The statement comes as the two leaders met prior to the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics games. The meeting marks the first time Xi has met face-to-face with a foreign leader since January 2020. The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Putin praised the growing relations between China and Russia. He said the countries closeness is “an example of dignified relations that support mutual development.”

The statement posted by the official Russian presidential website outlines that China “understands and supports the proposals put forward by the Russian Federation on the formation of long-term legally binding security guarantees in Europe”.

The two parties state that they “oppose the further expansion of NATO”. President Putin also called for “the North Atlantic alliance to abandon the ideologised approaches of the cold war”. This follows weeks of negotiations between Russia, the US and NATO on security concerns.

While the statement makes no direct reference to the ongoing Ukraine situation, it comes as tensions continue to grow in the region.

Russia has openly opposed Ukraine’s move towards European institutions, in particular in regards to NATO. In a prior statement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that “it’s absolutely mandatory to ensure Ukraine never, ever becomes a member of NATO.”

Some 100,000 Russian troops remain positioned at the border with Ukraine, a move which has been widely criticised by the West.

“Russian troop deployment in Belarus for so-called exercises is a great concern to us,” said Lithuanian Prime Minister, Ingrida Simonyte. She added “We must send a message to Russia that the price for further aggression would be very high”.

French president Emmanuel Macron will visit Moscow next week for diplomatic talks in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, which remains on high alert to be deployed in response to the Ukraine crisis, has returned to its home base in Portsmouth.

The HMS Prince of Wales battleship is shown in a photo on June 4, 1941. (AP Photo)

The carrier was appointed as the command ship of Nato’s Maritime High Readiness Force in January.

Our reporter, Khrystyna Tsupryk, has spoken to the Ukrainians on the ground about how they feel about the current situation:

For more, check CityNews radio station at 3.30 pm.

This is a developing story, we will bring you more details as they come. Please refresh the page to receive the latest updates.