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US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns attends the World Peace Forum at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in this July 4 2022 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/YEW LUN TIAN
US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns attends the World Peace Forum at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in this July 4 2022 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/YEW LUN TIAN

Beijing — Western envoys in China criticised Russia on Monday for its invasion of Ukraine, with the US ambassador saying China should not spread Russian “propaganda”, in an unusual public forum in a country that has declined to condemn Moscow’s attack.

Speaking at the World Peace Forum, organised by the Tsinghua University, US ambassador Nicholas Burns called the Russian war against Ukraine “the greatest threat to global world order”.

Burns said he hoped China’s foreign ministry spokespeople would stop repeating “Russian propaganda” blaming Nato for the war.

“I hope foreign ministry spokespersons would also stop telling lies about American bioweapons labs, which do not exist in Ukraine,” he said.

Burns was flanked by the British and French ambassadors to his left and a Chinese government adviser and the Russian ambassador to his right. The forum organiser had billed the session as a discussion among representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Russia calls its action in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

While the session was on the broad topic of “The United Nations and Global Order”, all three Western ambassadors criticised Russia for what they called its illegal aggression against Ukraine, a characterisation rejected by Russian ambassador Andrey Denisov.

British ambassador Caroline Wilson told the audience, made up of foreign diplomats, Chinese students and academics: “If Russia has its way, we would have global anarchy”.

French ambassador Laurent Bili said the war contravened all the founding principles of international order.

Western ambassadors also reserved some of their criticism for China. Wilson and Bili both rejected China’s assertion that Europe’s weapons aid to Ukraine was prolonging the war.

The US and Western allies have also criticised Russia for spreading propaganda, disinformation and “nonsense” by alleging that parts of biological weapons were being made in Ukraine.

The UN has said it was not aware of any biological weapons programmes in Ukraine.

Reuters

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