China’s overall trade with Russia rose over 12 per cent in March from a year earlier, slowing from February but still outpacing the growth in China’s total imports and exports, as Beijing slammed Western sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Shipments to and from Russia increased 12.76 per cent in March to $11.67 billion, Chinese customs data showed on Wednesday, slowing from 25.7 per cent growth in February, when Russia launched its invasion.

Still, the growth in March was faster than the 7.75 per cent increase in China’s trade with all countries and regions to $504.79 billion that month.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in a move that Moscow described as a “special military operation” designed to demilitarise and “denazify” its southern neighbour.

Beijing has refused to call Russia’s action an invasion and has repeatedly criticised what it says are illegal Western sanctions to punish Moscow.

Several weeks before the attack on Ukraine, China and Russia declared a “no-limits” strategic partnership. Last year, total trade between China and Russia jumped 35.8 per cent to a record $146.9 billion.

As sanctions against Russia mount, China could offset some of its neighbour’s pain by buying more. But analysts say they have yet to see any major indication China is violating Western sanctions on Russia.

China’s economic and trade cooperation with other countries including Russia and Ukraine remains normal, customs spokesman Li Kuiwen said at a news conference.

In the first quarter, China’s trade with Russia jumped 30.45 per cent from a year earlier, within the range of gains seen in previous quarterly increases.

Russia is a major source of oil, gas, coal and agricultural commodities for China.

Russia’s economy is on course to contract by more than 10 per cent in 2022, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said on Tuesday, hit by soaring inflation and capital flight.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday revised down its forecast for global trade growth this year because of the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war.