Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping has congratulated Russian leader Vladimir Putin on the Sochi Winter Olympics and hailed their growing ties, which frequently challenge Western domination of global affairs.

The two men met Thursday in Sochi, where Xi is to attend the games’ opening ceremony Friday night.

Xi said the two countries should deepen their cooperation on issues such as the bloody Syrian conflict, where they have been accused of blocking U.N. sanctions aimed at the Assad regime.

Chinese state newspapers splashed pictures of the two men shaking hands across their front pages Friday.

Russia has been a focus of Xi’s foreign policy and he pointedly made it his first foreign destination after becoming president last March.

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