China congratulates Russia's Putin on election

BEIJING - China's President Hu Jintao on Monday congratulated Vladimir Putin on his victory in the Russian presidential elections, the foreign ministry said.

Putin won back the Russian presidency, which he held from 2000-2008 before his four-year stint as prime minister, after securing almost 64 per cent of the vote in an election the opposition said was undermined by fraud.

"At 3 o'clock, President Hu Jintao sent a message of congratulations," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin at a regular briefing.

"China respects the choice of the Russian people... We believe that Russia will maintain social and political stability and economic development and play a bigger role in international affairs."

The official Xinhua news agency said Putin's victory would "further boost"
the already strong relationship between China, the world's largest energy consumer, and its neighbour Russia, the world's largest energy producer.

China became Russia's top trading partner for the first time in 2010 and the two countries are seeking to nearly double trade to US$100 billion (S$125 billion) by 2015 and then to US$200 billion by 2020.

Moscow and Beijing are both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, and have infuriated the West by blocking two UN resolutions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on protests.