HONG KONG and LONDON -- As Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived on Monday afternoon in Moscow, he was greeted at Vnukovo airport by a Russian military band, but not by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I am very glad, at the invitation of President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, to come back to the land of our close neighbor ... I am sure my visit will be fruitful," Xi said, according to Russia's TASS News Agency, which is run by the state.
Xi's visit with Kremlin officials amounts to China's most visible show of support for its neighbor since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
"I look forward to working with President Putin to jointly adopt a new vision, a new blueprint and new measures for the growth of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the years to come," the Chinese president wrote in an article published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, ahead of his visit.
Xi said the friendship between China and Russia is "growing steadily and must be cherished by us all" and that the upcoming visit to Russia was a "journey of friendship, cooperation and peace."
The leaders have a scheduled meeting at the Kremlin at 4:30 p.m. local time, which will be followed by a dinner. A Kremlin spokesperson said Monday's meeting was to be "informal," but that the two leaders would have "direct and very important communication."
Official talks and a state dinner have been scheduled for Tuesday, Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson, said.
Xi's visit comes days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin, accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.
Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, addressed the warrant during a press conference in Beijing on Monday. Wang said China has always "advocated that dialogue and negotiation" are the best ways to end the conflict. ICC officials should "respect the jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the head of state in accordance with international law," Wang said.
Wang said the court should attempt to avoid "politicization and double standards."
Xi, writing in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, also addressed the war in Ukraine, saying China is "convinced that a rational way out of the Ukrainian crisis and a path to lasting peace and universal security in the world will be found if everyone is guided by the concept of common, comprehensive, joint and sustainable security, continue dialogue and consultations in an equal, prudent and pragmatic manner."
Putin and Xi have had around 40 contacts in the past 10 years, according to a tally from Chinese state media. The two have talked by video conference and telephone in the last year. Monday will mark their first face-to-face meeting since Russia's invasion began.
As Xi landed at the small airport on the outskirts of Moscow at about 1 p.m. local time, he gave a short speech echoing what he'd written.
He said his country was committed to working with Russia "to firmly safeguard the international system with the United Nations at its core."
ABC News' Joe Simonetti and Ellie Kaufman contributed to this story.