APRIL 26, 2022 DAILY TIMES
Russia has warned of the “real” threat of World War III breaking out, ahead of a Tuesday meeting between the United States and allies over sending further arms to war-torn Ukraine.
Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour has triggered an outburst of support from Western nations that has seen weapons pour into the country to help it wage war against Russian troops.
But Western powers have been reluctant to deepen their involvement, for fear of sparking a conflict against nuclear-armed Russia.
Speaking to Russian news agencies, Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the risk of World War III “is serious” and criticised Kyiv’s approach to floundering peace talks.
“It is real, you can’t underestimate it,” Lavrov said.
For months, President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking Ukraine’s Western allies for heavy weapons — including artillery and fighter jets — vowing his forces could turn the tide of the war with more firepower.
The calls appear to be resonating now, with a host of NATO countries pledging to provide a range of heavy weapons and equipment, despite protests from Moscow.
In a landmark trip to Kyiv over the weekend, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Zelensky and promised $700 million in new aid to Ukraine.
“The first step in winning is believing that you can win,” Austin told a group of journalists after meeting the Ukrainian leader.
“We believe that we can win — they can win — if they have the right equipment, the right support.”
And on the invitation of the United States, 40 countries will also hold a security summit in Germany on Tuesday to discuss further arms to Ukraine — as well as to ensure the country’s longer-term security once the war is over.
Among the invited countries are European allies of the United States, but also Australia and Japan — who fear that a Russian victory in Ukraine will set a precedent and encourage the territorial ambitions of China.
Finland and Sweden — traditionally neutral countries that have been considering NATO membership since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — are also on the guestlist.
And on the Russian side, President Vladimir Putin is due to hold talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, his spokesman told RIA Novosti.
– Death and destruction –
But far from the diplomatic hustle and bustle, on the frontline, civilians continue to die in fighting raging across war-torn Ukraine.
At least five people were killed and another 18 wounded on Monday after a Russian rocket attack targeted railway infrastructure in the central Ukraine region of Vinnytsia.
The head of Ukraine Railways, Alexander Kamyshin, had earlier announced the attacks, accusing Moscow’s army of “systematically” destroying railway infrastructure.
Dozens of people were killed earlier this month in Russian strikes on a train station used for evacuations in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.
Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, remains partially surrounded and Moscow’s forces are regrouping in the south, but a Russian attempt to break through towards Zaporizhzhia in the east failed, the ministry added.
In Kharkiv — which has faced a daily barrage of Russian rocket attacks since the war began over three months ago — children spoke to AFP about the bombings, their daily life and hopes for peace.
“I miss my kickboxing training and dance classes,” said Alina, 9, who has been forced to sleep in an underground car park.
“Victory would make me very happy. The war won’t end straight away, but it will in a few weeks, I made a wish.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, the governor of a Russian region bordering Ukraine accused Kyiv of bombing one of its villages, injuring two civilians and damaging several houses.
“A village was targeted… It is already clear that there are injured civilians,” Belgorod region governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram.
Russia has in recent weeks accused Ukrainian forces of striking targets on Russian soil, including two villages in Belgorod and another in the region of Bryansk.
Moscow also accused Kyiv of preventing civilians trapped with Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks from leaving the besieged industrial complex despite a ceasefire announcement.
The Russian defence ministry had said it would allow a civilian evacuation from Mariupol’s sprawling steel plant, which has been sheltering the remaining Ukrainian resistance in the southeastern port city.
But the Russian army on Monday evening said no one used the proposed humanitarian corridor.
“The Kyiv authorities have again cynically undermined this humanitarian operation,” it said in a statement, accusing the Ukrainian government of “indifference” towards its citizens.
– ‘International crimes’ –
Forty German diplomats will meanwhile be heading home from Russia after Moscow announced their expulsion, following Berlin’s decision to kick out 40 Russian diplomats earlier this month.
From The Hague, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor will join an EU investigations team to probe “alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine”, officials said.
The chief prosecutor visited the town of Bucha — the scene of civilian killings that Ukraine has blamed on Russian forces — almost two weeks ago. Russia has denied responsibility for the deaths.
“Ukraine is a crime scene. We’re here because we have reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court are being committed,” Karim Khan said at the time.
Meanwhile, the IMF warned that Asian nations, like the rest of the world, are being battered by the war, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow driving up food and fuel prices worldwide.
“This is a challenging time for policymakers as they try to address pressures on growth and tackle rising inflation,” IMF official Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf wrote in a blog.
And the UN is set to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would require the five permanent members of the Security Council to justify their use of the veto in future.
“It is not directed against Russia,” said co-sponsor Christian Wenaweser, Liechtenstein’s ambassador to the body.
The proposal was on ice for more than two years and its revival came as the Security Council has proven incapable of condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, due to Moscow’s veto power.
But its application “will shed light” on the use of the veto right and on the “blockages” within the Security Council, said one ambassador on condition of anonymity.
Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:
– Five killed in rail strikes –
At least five people are killed and 18 injured in Russian rocket strikes on five railway stations in the central Ukraine region of Vinnytsia, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office says.
– US wants ‘weakened’ Russia –
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says he hopes that the war in Ukraine will hobble the Russian military.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” he says after a visit to Kyiv with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Ukraine can win the war if it has the “right equipment”, he adds. Austin and Blinken pledge $700 million (653 million euros) in additional military aid during their visit.
– Peace talks to continue –
Lavrov also says peace talks with Ukraine will continue, criticising Kyiv’s approach to the negotiations and accusing President Volodymyr Zelensky of “pretending” to negotiate.
“Good will has its limits. But if it isn’t reciprocal, that doesn’t help the negotiation process,” he says.
– US diplomats to return –
Blinken confirms that US diplomats, withdrawn at the start of Russia’s invasion, will gradually return to Kyiv. US President Joe Biden nominates career foreign service officer Bridget Brink to be the next US ambassador.
Several European countries have also reopened their embassies in Kyiv since Russia withdrew its forces from the region.
– No deal on Mariupol –
Russia’s army says Kyiv prevented civilian evacuations from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, where Ukrainian forces have been holding out in the besieged port city, despite announcing a unilateral ceasefire.
Ukraine disputes says Moscow did not agree to its request for the evacuation of wounded soldiers and civilians.
– Putin congratulates Macron –
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates French President Emmanuel Macron on his re-election following a run-off with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, seen as closer to Moscow.
– ICC to join crime probe –
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor will join an EU investigations team to probe possible international crimes committed in Ukraine, the EU’s judicial cooperation agency says — the first time they have taken part in a joint international investigation.
– German diplomats expelled –
Moscow says it is expelling 40 German diplomats after Berlin sent 40 Russian diplomats packing earlier this month.
– UK missile launch vehicles –
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says London will send Ukraine armoured vehicles able to fire missiles against Russian warplanes.
– Russia says Ukraine drones downed –
The governor of Russia’s Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, says Russian forces shot down two Ukrainian drones near the boundary between the two countries, in Kursk’s Rylsky district.
Two people are also injured in a village in the Russian region of Belgorod, its governor says, blaming Ukraine’s armed forces.
– 5.2 million refugees –
More than 5.2 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia launched its invasion two months ago, with over 45,000 having left in the past 24 hours, the UN says.