Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Belarus to sign dozens of deals worth a total of $15 billion as Beijing looks to build greater inroads into Europe's economy.

Xi said Sunday that Belarus could become a key hub for China's much-vaunted Silk Road vision — a project to bridge Europe and Asia through a series of transportation and energy links. The Chinese leader is visiting Belarus for the first time in 14 years and is scheduled to stay until Tuesday.

The economy of Belarus is intensely reliant on Russia, where growth has been suffocated by a combination of falling oil prices and Western sanctions. That has pushed Belarus to vary its economic relations, although its options with western Europe remained constrained by diplomatic tensions.