China has asked foreign embassies to remove “political propaganda” to “avoid causing disputes between countries”.

Foreign embassies in Beijing have been asked by the Chinese government to avoid displaying what it calls propaganda over signs of support for Ukraine.

China says it is neutral in Moscow’s 15-month-old invasion of Ukraine but has repeated Russian justifications, accusing Washington and NATO of provoking Moscow.

A Chinese envoy visited Ukraine this week and was due to go to Russia to discuss a possible “political settlement”, although little progress is expected.

China’s foreign ministry asked diplomatic missions last week not to use their exterior walls to display “political propaganda,” according to an EU spokesperson and a European government diplomat.

The May 8 request said measures were needed to “avoid causing disputes between countries,” but did not define propaganda or provide other details, EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali wrote in a statement.

Massrali said the EU delegation in Beijing “has not changed any items displayed on its front wall”.

The request did not mention Ukraine, according to the diplomats. But flags and placards put up by embassies in Canada, France, Germany and other governments are the only public displays of most foreign embassies, apart from tourist advertising.

The European diplomat, who asked not to be identified further because of the sensitivity of the issue, said his government “sees no reason to change” its display.

A 2-meter (6.5 ft) placard at the front gate of the Finnish embassy features the flags of Finland and Ukraine and reads “#WeStandWithUkraine.” A sign hung at the Swedish embassy has the same phrase and flags as the two countries.

These screens have been up for months. It was not clear why China requested the removal now.

Some embassies also raised rainbow flags for Diversity Week and Wednesday’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Such issues are considered politically sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party.

Asked for details, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said embassies were required to “respect Chinese laws and regulations.”

“China urges embassies of all countries in China and representative offices of international organizations in China to carry out their duties in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or relevant international agreements,” Wang said.

Chinese envoy Li Hui met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for two days this week.

The Ukrainian government said they were discussing “ways to stop Russian aggression,” but neither side elaborated further.

Li said the two countries should “create conditions for ending the war and peace talks,” according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Political analysts see little chance of progress toward peace as neither side appears ready to stop fighting. But they say Xi’s government may be trying to deflect criticism of its friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and divide European allies from Washington.

Beijing released a proposed peace plan in February, but Ukraine’s allies largely dismissed it, insisting that Putin’s forces must withdraw and be prosecuted for war crimes.