Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed willingness to attend the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics during his virtual summit on Wednesday with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Russia's TASS news agency reported.
Putin's remarks come as the United States and some other democratic countries such as Britain and Australia intend to implement a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games slated for February next year.
"I expect that we will finally be able to meet in-person in Beijing next February. As we agreed earlier, we will hold talks before attending the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games," Putin was quoted by the news agency as telling Xi.
Japan, a close U.S. ally that has heavily relied on China in economic terms, is also considering not sending Cabinet ministers to the Beijing Olympics, in line with the U.S.-led diplomatic boycott amid mounting criticism over China's alleged human rights abuses.
With Putin pledging to join the ceremony of the Beijing Games and South Korean President Moon Jae In vowing not to mull a diplomatic boycott, the world could be divided into two groups in the lead up to the global sporting event, foreign affairs experts warn.
Putin told Xi, "We have been constantly supporting each other in regard to international sports cooperation, including on the inadmissibility of any attempts of politicization of sports and the Olympic movement," according to TASS.
China and Russia's predecessor state, the Soviet Union, were competitors during the Cold War. They were at odds over interpretations and practical applications of Marxism-Leninism, the ideology of 20th-century communism.
The two nations, however, have been deepening their ties of late as their relations with the United States have deteriorated.
Xi was quoted by TASS as telling Putin, "The world has entered a period turbulence and great change. Chinese-Russian relations have withstood different trials to demonstrate their viability and get a second wind."
Since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January, Beijing has sparred with Washington over several issues like its alleged human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang as well as security challenges to Taiwan.
U.S.-Russia ties, meanwhile, are believed to have worsened to their lowest point in years following Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and its alleged meddling in U.S. elections.
Xi and Putin held online talks with Biden in November and December, respectively. A virtual summit between the Chinese and Russian leaders also took place in June.
The Biden administration has viewed China and Russia as authoritarian governments.
At the first-ever "Summit for Democracy," hosted earlier this month by the United States via video link, Biden called for participants of the gathering to "strengthen" their own democracies and "push back on authoritarianism."
The Chinese Communist-led government has committed to carry out countermeasures against countries that would stage a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, although it has not elaborated what kind of steps it would take.