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Vladimir Putin may be considering a Chinese peace plan for Ukraine, raising hopes for the war’s end – although the dictator is continuing his fierce words towards the West. Following a meeting with Xi Jinping in Moscow on Tuesday, the despot said the plan could be put forward when they are ready “in the West and Kyiv”.

A joint statement from the two tyrants following their meeting cautioned against taking steps that may push the conflict into an “uncontrollable phase” – before stating pointedly that there would be no winners in a nuclear war.

This remark came on the same day as Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said there were fewer and fewer steps left before a potential “nuclear collision” between Russia and the West.

Further in the joint statement, Putin accused the West of fighting “to the last Ukrainian”. President Xi continued to claim a “neutral position” on the war, and called for dialogue.

China’s 12-point plan, published last month, calls for peace talks and respect for national sovereignty, without making any specific proposals. Crucially, it does not explicitly call for Russian forces to leave Ukraine – something which Kyiv has made clear would be a necessary condition for any talks.

The US has been dismissive of China’s plan, arguing that by allowing Russia’s soldiers to stay, it would simply enable them to regroup and lock in their territorial gains.

Putin said: “We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv. However, so far we see no such readiness from their side.”

Standing alongside the Russian leader, President Xi said his government was in favour of peace and dialogue and that China was on the “right side of history”.

The two also cemented their growing trade, energy and political ties. They signed two joint documents – one detailing plans for economic co-operation, and one on plans to deepen the Russia-China partnership.

The pair also reached an agreement on a planned pipeline in Siberia to deliver Russian gas to China via Mongolia, and discussed their concern at the new Aukus pact – a defence agreement between Australia, the UK and US.

While the despots did pledge more regular joint military drills, they insisted their closer bilateral relationship was not directed against any third nation, and that it did not constitute a “military-political alliance”.

Concerns are growing that China is supplying Russia with military support.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels: “We haven’t seen any proof that China is delivering lethal weapons to Russia but we have seen some signs that this has been a request from Russia, and that this is an issue that is considered in Beijing by the Chinese authorities.”

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Russia’s Sergei Shoigu accused the West of stoking the fires of nuclear conflict in response to claims that Britain would supply Ukraine with ammunition containing depleted uranium, saying Russia would respond.

Speaking in London on Monday, defence minister Annabel Goldie said some of the ammunition for the Challenger 2 battle tanks that Britain was sending to Ukraine includes armour piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium.

Despite intense fighting in recent months, Putin’s forces have largely failed to gain any significant ground as his invasion of Ukraine continues.

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