China's Xi welcomes President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus to Beijing

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BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke of a “strengthened political mutual trust and international coordination” with Belarus after he met with the European country's president in Beijing, according to official media.

China has sought to make Belarus a core member of its “Belt and Road Initiative” to build infrastructure with nations from Malaysia to Greece. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has become increasingly isolated following a crackdown on political opponents and his support for ally Russia in its war on Ukraine.

But the heavily state-controlled economy of Belarus has dimmed possibilities for major economic cooperation with China.

China “opposes external interference in Belarus’ internal affairs,” Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying, a reflection of China’s unofficial alliance with authoritarian states from Cuba to Russia in opposition to the U.S.-led liberal democratic global order.

Xinhua said Xi and Lukashenko “also exchanged views on the Ukraine crisis," but the news agency did not give details of their discussion about the conflict.

Russia used Belarus as a staging ground for troops and equipment before Russian President Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

A Yale University study published last month reported that Belarus also has facilitated “Russia’s systematic effort to identify, collect, transport, and re-educate Ukraine’s children" during the war. More than 2,400 Ukrainian children have been taken to Belarus from Russia-occupied parts of Ukraine, according to the study.