By contrast, when Putin and Xi discussed Ukraine by telephone on March 4, the Kremlin said their positions were “close”.
A strong alliance would suit both countries as a counterbalance to the United States.
State-owned Russian gas firm Gazprom hopes to pump 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year to China from 2018 via the first pipeline between the world’s largest producer of conventional gas to the largest consumer.
“May is in our plans,” a Gazprom spokesman said, when asked about the timing of an agreement.
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - When President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty this week annexing Crimea to great fanfare in the Kremlin and anger in the West, a trusted lieutenant was making his way to Asia to shore up ties with Russia’s eastern allies.
A company source said: “It would be logical to expect the deal during Putin’s visit to China.” But the two sides are still wrangling over pricing and Russia’s cooling relations with the West could make China toughen its stance.
“With Western sanctions, the atmosphere could change quickly in favor of China,” said Brian Zimbler Managing Partner of Morgan Lewis international law firm’s Moscow office.
“The worse Russia’s relations are with the West, the closer Russia will want to be to China. Although China is nervous about referendums in restive regions of other countries which might serve as a precedent for Tibet and Taiwan, it has refused to criticize Moscow. Not only is China a fellow permanent member of the U. Security Council with whom Russia thinks alike, it is also the world’s second biggest economy and it opposes the spread of Western-style democracy.
If China supports you, no one can say you’re isolated,” said Vasily Kashin, a China expert at the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) think thank. Little wonder, then, that Putin thanked China for its understanding over Ukraine in a Kremlin speech on Tuesday before signing the treaty claiming back Crimea, 60 years after it was handed to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Sechin, whose visit also included India, Vietnam and South Korea, is a close Putin ally who worked with him in the St Petersburg city authorities and then the Kremlin administration, before serving as a deputy prime minister.
In Tokyo, he offered Japanese investors more cooperation in the development of Russian oil and gas.
Russia-China trade turnover grew by 8.2 percent in 2013 to $8.1 billion but Russia was still only China’s seventh largest export partner in 2013, and was not in the top 10 countries for imported goods.