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Foreign observers say China's backing for Russia through oil and gas purchases irritates Washington and raises the danger of reprisal, despite scant evidence that Beijing is assisting Moscow in evading sanctions over its war in Ukraine. The importance of Beijing as a lifeline for Russian President Vladimir Putin grew Monday when the European Union, the world's largest market for fossil fuels and a major source of Moscow's foreign revenue, agreed to halt oil purchases.

President Xi Jinping's leadership professed a "no limits" friendship with Moscow before of Russia's attack on February 24, and has kept the West guessing about whether it will bail out Putin. Because the US, Europe, and Japan cut Russia off from their markets and the global banking system without going through the United Nations, where Beijing and Moscow have veto power, China sees the sanctions as unlawful.

China, India, and other nations are not prohibited from purchasing Russian oil and gas as a result of the sanctions. President Joe Biden, on the other hand, has threatened Xi with undefined repercussions if Beijing assists Moscow in evading sanctions. This raises the possibility that Chinese firms will be penalised by losing access to lucrative Western markets.