Chinese President Xi unveils panda pavilion at Moscow Zoo during a state visit to Russia


A pair of giant pandas on loan from Beijing to Moscow are enjoying their new home after Chinese President Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin paid them a special visit yesterday to introduce them to the public.

Two-year-old Ru Yi, male, and one-year-old Ding Ding, female, are seen gorging on freshly imported bamboo and relaxing in the playground in latest footage. 

Xi is on a three-day state visit to ‘best friend’ Putin as China and Russia are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic ties this year. Both nations face mounting political tensions with the U.S.

President Putin thanked President Xi for the loan of the two pandas. 

‘This is a sign of a special respect, of a special trust in Russia,’ President Putin said. ‘When we speak about pandas, a smile always appears on our face.’ 

Male panda Ru Yi and female panda Ding Ding arrived in their new home in Moscow Zoo at the end of April.

They made their public debut yesterday at the opening ceremony of the panda pavilion attended by the Chinese and Russian leaders.  

Ru Yi, which is turning three next month, and Ding Ding, which will be two in July, were both born at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.

They were sent to Russia as part of a 15-year collaborative programme between Beijing and Moscow to improve conservation of endangered species, reported Xinhua News Agency. 

The pair were flown to Moscow on April 29 with plenty of bamboo and treats. The zoo had renovated the old panda pavilion to welcome them.

Moscow Zoo had sent full-time keepers and veterinarians to China in advance to learn about the breeding and medical care of the black-and-white bears, Xinhua said. 

The pandas’ Chinese keeper, Wang Pingfeng, has followed them to Moscow. 

Speaking to China National Radio, Mr Wang said Ru Yi had adjusted to its life in Russia ‘very quickly’ while Ding Ding, the shier one, had trouble getting used to the new environment at the beginning.

It is also said that up to three different types of bamboo will be transported from the pandas’ hometown of Sichuan to Moscow on a regular basis in order to give the animals an authentic but varied menu.

A video released by China’s state-run newspaper People’s Daily today shows Ru Yi and Ding Ding enjoying bamboo sticks, climbing the wooden poles and playing with toys in the enclosure. The pandas have good appetite, according to the panda. 

The zoo has installed a new humidification system to help the pandas adjust to the drier air in Moscow.

China had previously loaned two male pandas to the ex-Soviet Union, one in 1957 and one in 1959. Both lived in Moscow Zoo. 

The cost for a zoo to ‘rent’ a pair of pandas from China is about US$1 million a year, according to previous reports. 

Before Russia, Denmark was the last country to have received the diplomatic gifts from China. 

Putin yesterday met with Xi in Kremlin for talks that reflected increasingly close ties between the two countries that were communist rivals during the Cold War.

Xi called Putin his ‘close friend,’ noting that they have met nearly 30 times over the last six years. The trip marked Xi’s eighth visit to Russia since he took the helm in 2012.

‘We will strengthen our mutual support on key issues,’ Xi said, sitting next to Putin in an ornate Kremlin hall.

Relations between Russia and China have become increasingly close as they both face mounting tensions with the U.S.

Moscow’s ties with Washington have declined sharply over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Kremlin meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections, while China is engaged in a spiraling trade war with the U.S.

‘Protectionism and unilateral approaches are on the rise, and a policy of force and hegemonism is increasingly taking hold,’ Xi said.

Putin and Xi were meeting in Moscow as world leaders gathered on the south coast of England to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Putin, who attended 70th anniversary commemorations in France five years ago, has not been invited. Russia was not involved in D-Day but the Soviet effort was crucial in defeating the Nazis on the Eastern Front.

The Russian leader emphasised that Moscow and Beijing have the same view on many global issues, particularly noting their shared opposition to Washington’s withdrawal from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a key Cold War-era arms control pact.

Xi and Putin signed a joint statement on the development of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation after the talks.

In the statement, Putin and Xi criticised the U.S. move, saying it will ‘undermine strategic stability.’

They also voiced worry about the growing threat of an arms race in space, calling for a legally binding international agreement banning weapons in orbit.

‘A ban on deployment of any weapons in space would avert a serious threat to global peace and security,’ Putin and Xi said in a statement.

The two presidents underlined their shared approach to international crises, emphasizing the need to preserve a nuclear deal with Iran and promising to help advance the stalled talks on North Korea’s denuclearization.

Putin hailed the launch of a Chinese car factory south of Moscow as a sign of burgeoning business ties. He and Xi also visited Moscow Zoo for a ceremony welcoming a pair of giant pandas from China.

‘We highly appreciate that friendly gesture,’ Putin said with a smile.

Later this week, Xi will be the most prominent guest at Russia’s major investment conference in St. Petersburg on Friday.

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