January 21 - Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the country's Foreign Ministry has confirmed, in a move that bucks the trend of recent withdrawals by a number of international figures uneasy with Russia's record on human rights.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry revealed that Xi will be in Sochi from February 6 to 8, adding this is the first time a Chinese President will attend a major sporting event overseas.
"Mutual support is an important feature of China and Russia's strategic cooperation," said the spokesman.
"This shows the close friendship between the two leaders.
"We hope that Russia can successfully hold this Winter Olympics."
The announcement will come as a boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has seen a raft of world leaders pull out of attending events in Sochi.
They include United States President Barrack Obama, German President Joachim Gauck and French President François Hollande, while British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are also expected to stay away from the Black Sea Resort.
The heads of Canada, Belgium, Lithuania, Moldova and Georgia have also indicated they will be missing from Sochi 2014 as the row over the introduction of controversial anti-gay laws by Putin last year continue to cast a shadow over the Winter Olympics.
Last week, both the Finnish and Swedish Sports Ministers said they would not be going to Sochi in protest at the new legislation.
Their concerns appeared to be reinforced when Putin told a meeting of Sochi 2014 volunteers last week that gay people should "leave children in peace".
Joining Xi in Sochi will be the likes of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and King Willem-Alexander, while the leaders of Switzerland, Czech Republic and Latvia are also expected to attend.
FIFA President and International Olympic Committee member Sepp Blatter has promised to be in Sochi and criticised politicians and international figures for boycotting the Games, claiming they are "surrendering" and wasting an opportunity to use the event as a catalyst for discussion on Russia's human rights record.
The presence of the Chinese President in Sochi will not come as a great surprise considering the relatively close relationship between China and Russia.
China was steadfast in its support of Russia and Putin's refusal to allow military intervention from the West in Syria last year, while Xi reportedly attended a birthday party for Putin last October, where the pair shared vodka and sandwiches.
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