The Chinese government has confirmed that it solidified a deal scrapping import restrictions on wheat from Russia, announcing details of the agreement the same week Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine.
Reuters first reported on Feb. 4 that China had lifted the restrictions on Russian wheat and barley as part of a broader group of new deals forged between the two allies during Putin's visit to Beijing at the launch of the Olympics – including a decades-long $117.5 billion agreement for Russia to export oil and gas to China.
But the Chinese government did not acknowledge the wheat deal until its General Administration of Customs made further details public in a notice dated Feb. 23, sparking outrage that the country led by President Xi Jinping was moving forward with a "lifeline" to Russia as other nations ramp up sanctions on the Kremlin in the wake of its attack on a sovereign country.
"You don’t go and give a lifeline to Russia in the middle of a period when they are invading another country," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday in a rebuke of China's move. "That is simply unacceptable."
Russia is the world's largest exporter of wheat, and previously faced restrictions on exports to China over plant disease concerns. Now, further exports from Russia means bad news for the current major wheat exporters to China, including Australia, the European Union and Canada.