By G9ija

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will meet next week for their first face-to-face meeting since the war in Ukraine began over six months ago.

The pair will meet during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit set to be held Sept. 15 to 16 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Andrey Denisov, Russian envoy to Beijing told reporters on Wednesday.

“In general, this summit promises to be interesting, because it will be the first full-fledged summit since the pandemic,” Russian media outlets reported him saying. “I do not want to say that online summits are not full-fledged, but still, direct communication between leaders is a different quality of discussion.”

Denisov said Moscow and Beijing are still working to iron out details on when Putin and Xi will meet but said it will be a “serious, full-fledged meeting.”

This scheduled meet up underlines the significance of an expanding Russia-China relationship as ties with the West have deteriorated over aggressive force postures in their corresponding regions.

China has come under criticism for backing Russia amid its war in Ukraine, though Beijing has fallen short of openly supporting Moscow’s war effort.

In recent weeks, China and Russia have engaged in war games, renegotiated gas deals to better behoove their economies and have increasingly distanced themselves from diplomatic relations with Western nations.

The meetup between Xi and Putin is not only significant as it is the first international trip Xi has made since the pandemic, but comes as the U.S. and its allies warn that authoritarianism is on the rise.

China has drastically cracked down on civil rights across the country and in Hong Kong over the last several years, with its most recent threats levied at Taiwan.

Western officials remain concerned over Beijing plans to reunify the island – which has governed independently since 1949 – with mainland China.

Putin has also worked to reverse democratic progression first implemented under Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR.