Russia has warned that it will fire Western weapons shipments to Kyiv, increasing the risk of a direct military confrontation between Moscow and NATO during the war in Ukraine.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday that “pumping up” [Ukraine] According to the Interfax news agency, “with weapons from a whole range of countries” was “not only a dangerous move – it is something that turns these convoys into legitimate military targets”.
US President Joe Biden has rejected calls from Kyiv to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine and said NATO would not engage in an all-out conflict with Russia or send troops to defend the country.
However, Western supporters of Ukraine have promised significant military aid to the country. The US has pledged $6.5bn in defense spending, the UK has sent 3,615 NLAW anti-tank missiles and Javelin anti-tank weapons, while the Nordic states have sent more than 10,000 anti-tank weapons.
With reports of fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv and an attack on an airfield in Vasilkiv, south of the capital, Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine on Saturday. Ukraine police said an ammunition depot was damaged, shells exploded and caught fire.
“The airport is completely destroyed. An arsenal of weapons exploded,” said Vasilkiv mayor Natalia Balsinovich.
A food distribution center west of Kyiv also came under fire.
According to Ukrainian officials, Russia carried out aerial bombings of the besieged city of Mariupol and attacked a mosque there. There was no immediate confirmation of casualties.
Street protests erupted in Melitopol, where Vladimir Putin’s army detained the city’s mayor, Ivan Fedorov.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on world leaders to pressure Moscow to release him. “We appeal to all world leaders who speak to Moscow. France, Germany, Israel and others,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian president said that the Russian losses were “simply astonishing”, claiming the destruction of more than 360 tanks, 1,205 armored vehicles, “about 60 aircraft”. [and] More than 80 helicopters”. Their claims could not be independently verified.
He also called for face-to-face peace talks with his Russian counterpart in Jerusalem, saying Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was well positioned to act as mediator.
According to senior officials, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron made a “very clear and very difficult” joint call with Putin on Saturday, in which they sought to stop the war in Ukraine, but were determined to continue. Found.
The Kremlin said Putin claimed Ukraine’s armed forces were violating international law by “extraordinary retaliation against dissenters, taking civilians hostage and using them as human shields”. [and] Laying heavy weapons in civilian areas near hospitals, schools, kindergartens etc.”
A French official dismissed the allegations as “Russian lies” and believed that Moscow’s targeting of civilians and bombing cities was “the worst kind of violation of international humanitarian law” and could be considered a war crime. .
“It is up to President Putin to stop the war and we are putting maximum pressure on him,” the official said, describing the already implemented Western sanctions against Russia as “historic” and imposed on North Korea, Syria and Comparing the sanctioned regimes, he said. Iran is threatening further if the situation worsens.
Russia’s threat to Western arms shipments was not raised by either side, the official said, adding: “The Russians can’t talk to us about that. [dangers of the] Third World War and also called us legitimate targets. ,
Putin said Russian and Ukrainian representatives had continued talks via video link after talks earlier this week.
The war is now in its third week and the West has extended sanctions. On Friday, the G7 nations said they would end normal trade relations with Moscow.
In the latest move against Russia’s oligarchs, Italian authorities seized a superyacht worth $530mn owned by Andrey Melnichenko in the port of Trieste.
Ryabkov accused the US of further stifling relations by leading Western sanctions efforts. “It is the US that has escalated the tension in international affairs to the maximum. And before we criminalize what they are doing in practice by supporting the Kyiv regime, ”said Ryabkov.
He said Russia and the US were in “constant contact” and that Moscow was still ready for strategic talks with Washington on arms control.
Putin is demanding that Ukraine recognize the independence of the two separatist states in the Donbass region annexing the Crimean peninsula in 2014, commit to demilitarization and declare neutrality in its constitution.
Ukraine has said it is ready to make some concessions, but has described Moscow’s stance as demanding a “surrender”.