Coalition chief Jens Stoltenberg has said NATO leaders are preparing to send equipment to Ukraine to defend against chemical and nuclear weapons.
Speaking on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said the group was expected to agree at a summit the next day to provide “additional assistance” to Ukraine, including “protecting it from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats” as well as Cyber security support is also included.
The initiative will be the first time that NATO member states have sent supplies to Ukraine specifically to counter weapons of mass destruction, amid growing fears in western capitals that Moscow could use them.
“We are concerned about the use of chemical or biological weapons,” Stoltenberg said, referring to NATO’s “nuclear saber-rattle” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Any use of chemical weapons would completely change the nature of the conflict . . . and have far-reaching consequences.”
US President Joe Biden said before a trip to Europe that there was a “real threat” that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Biden, who is due to arrive in Brussels at 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday, will attend the NATO summit as well as meetings with the European Union and G7 allies, aimed at increasing support for Kyiv and Russia’s economy with more sanctions. but to reduce the financial pressure. Biden will also visit Poland.
Cautioning that the war “will not end easily or rapidly”, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said expected measures would include new financial sanctions and steps to “crack piracy and ensure stronger enforcement” of existing sanctions. , which are the most punitive measures ever imposed on a major world economy.
But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday stood firm on Germany’s resistance to an immediate ban on Russian fossil fuels. Scholz told the Bundestag that immediately cutting imports of Russian energy supplies would lead to an economic crisis.
“To do so from one day to the next would mean plunging our country and the whole of Europe into recession,” he warned. “Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be at risk. Entire branches of the industry are on the verge.
“The sanctions should not hit European states harder than the Russian leadership,” he said.
Russia denounced reports that the US and its Western allies were pushing for Russia’s exit from the G20 meeting in Indonesia later this year, saying President Vladimir Putin still intends to attend. Russia’s ambassador to Jakarta, Lyudmila Vorobyova, said the West’s response was “absolutely inconsistent”.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky commended his troops for taking back the area from Russian forces.
The Ukrainian military has launched a series of limited counter-attacks in recent days, claiming to retake Makarev on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, as well as pushing back occupying forces around the southern city of Kherson.
In his regular overnight address on Wednesday, Zelensky praised his army, which had “defeated” and removed Russian troops around Kherson, while warning that Russia’s brutal shelling meant war. There was “nothing left” of Mariupol, the port city that bore the brunt. ,
Russia’s progress in Ukraine has largely stalled, according to Western intelligence assessments of the month-long campaign, facing supply problems, poor logistics and stubborn Ukrainian resistance.
Partly as a result of significant losses, a senior US defense official estimated that Russia’s military presence in Ukraine had declined significantly, falling below 90 percent of the original 150,000-strong assault force deployed on Ukraine’s borders for the first time. Is.
Zelensky said 100,000 civilians were trapped in Mariupol, facing “inhumane conditions”. “A complete blockade,” he said. “No food, no water, no medicine. Under constant shelling, under constant bombardment.” He said about 7,000 civilians were evacuated on Tuesday.
Russian troops are attempting to quell resistance in Mariupol to fortify territory along Ukraine’s coast, but Ukrainian and Western officials said defense of the city continued.
The Pentagon noted that there were indications that Ukraine was “willing and capable” of taking back territory from Russia, but a senior defense official did not confirm reports of Russian troops being pushed out of Makariv.
Taking control of Makarev would put Ukrainian troops at an important crossroads west of Kyiv, allowing them to pressurize supply routes to Russian forces.
Over the past week, Russian troops have taken a defensive stand within the artillery ranges of Ukraine’s largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv. According to local officials, early Wednesday, Russian forces opened fire on a shopping mall and other commercial and residential buildings on the outskirts of Kyiv. The regional military administration said they also bombed a bridge over the Desna River that connects Kyiv to Chernihiv, north of the capital.
A UK intelligence update noted on Wednesday that the battlefield across Ukraine remained largely stable, with Russian forces “conducting a period of restructuring before resuming large-scale offensive operations”.
Britain’s Defense Ministry noted that Putin’s troops were “attempting to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east of the country” moving in the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south.
Officials in Kyiv have issued a warning over the “possibility” of troops crossing the border with neighboring Belarus opening a new front.
The authoritarian President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has allowed Russia to use his country’s territory to invade Ukraine. In an update on Wednesday, Ukraine’s military noted the “active movement of Russian and Belarusian military equipment and its further accumulation along the Ukrainian border.”
But it added that “a large number of personnel as well as some commanders are refusing to participate in the capture”. [Ukraine]Although the claim cannot be independently verified, a senior Western diplomat in Ukraine said Belarusian generals were reluctant to deploy troops who had never fought a war outside their borders. They are poorly trained and equipped,” said one.