Russia warns of WWIII after top US officials visit Kyiv

Joshua Melvin - Agence France-Presse
Russia warns of WWIII after top US officials visit Kyiv
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gestures during a joint news conference following talks with his Armenian counterpart in Moscow, on April 8, 2022.
Alexander Zemlianichenko / POOL / AFP

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia on Monday warned the Ukraine conflict risked escalating into a third world war and accused Kyiv of playing at peace talks a day after visiting US officials said Ukrainian forces could beat back Moscow's invasion.

The conflict has triggered an outburst of support from Western nations that has seen weapons pour into Ukraine to help them wage war against Russian troops.

Speaking to Russian news agencies, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised Kyiv's approach to floundering peace talks, saying the risk of a World War III "is serious".

"It is real, you can't underestimate it."

While he said talks with Kyiv would continue, Lavrov accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of "pretending" to negotiate, adding: "You'll find a thousand contradictions."

For months, 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.

"The first step in winning is believing that you can win," Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin told a group of journalists after he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Zelensky in Kyiv.

"We believe that we can win — they can win — if they have the right equipment, the right support."

The highly sensitive US trip by two of President Joe Biden's top cabinet members came as fighting continued across Ukraine, casting a long shadow over Easter celebrations in the largely Orthodox country.

Zelensky hails resistance

"Thanks to the courage, the wisdom of our defenders, thanks to the courage of all Ukrainians — our state is a true symbol of the struggle for freedom," Zelensky said in his evening address vowing victory.

Following a weekend full of fighting, at least five people were killed and another 18 injured on Monday after a Russia rocket attack targeted railway infrastructure in the central Ukraine region of Vinnytsia.

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 in recent weeks has accused Ukrainian forces of striking targets on Russian soil, including two villages in Belgorod and another in the region of Bryansk.

The governor of the Kursk region near Ukraine also said Russian forces had shot down two Ukrainian drones in the early hours of the morning.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced Monday that Britain would send Ukraine armoured vehicles able to fire missiles against Russian warplanes.

"These Stormer vehicles will give Ukraine forces enhanced short-range anti-air capabilities both day and night," he said.

The United States has been a leading donor of finance and weaponry to Ukraine, and a key sponsor of sanctions targeting Russia.

But it had not previously sent top officials to Kyiv. Several European leaders have already travelled there to underscore their support.

"Many countries are going to come forward and provide additional munitions and howitzers. So we're going to push as hard as we can, as quickly as we can, to get them what they need," Austin said.

Blinken and Austin also said US diplomats would begin a gradual return to Ukraine this week and announced $700 million (653 million euros) in additional military aid.

Supply lines hit

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 is to join an EU investigations team to probe "alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine", officials said.

Russia's air force targeted 82 Ukrainian military sites, including four command posts and two fuel depots, and the army fired high-precision missiles at 27 targets in their latest attacks, the Russian defence ministry said on Monday.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said Russia was continuing to hit infrastructure and supply lines bringing military assistance from Ukraine's partners.

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.

Russia on Monday accused Kyiv of preventing civilians trapped with Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks from leaving the besieged industrial centre despite a ceasefire announcement.

The 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.

A video posted by the far-right Azov Regiment, whose fighters are based in Azovstal, showed war-weary women and children sheltering in the plant's underground bunkers, pleading for relief. 

"There are 600 people here. No water, no food. What are we going to do here? How long will we stay here?" asked one woman. 

"We haven't been out for two months now. I don't even know what the weather is like there. It feels like it's still February 28," said another woman.

Mariupol, which the Kremlin claims to have "liberated", is pivotal to Russia's war plans to forge a land bridge to Russian-occupied Crimea — and possibly beyond, as far as Moldova.






As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 27, 2022 - 6:49pm

President Vladimir Putin says he hopes that Moscow and the West could find a solution to the raging security crisis over Ukraine, but also accused Washington of using Kyiv as a "tool" against Russia.

"I hope that in the end we will find a solution, although it will not be simple," Putin says, indicating he was ready for more talks with the West, which has accused Moscow of massing more than 100,000 troops on the border and plotting to invade Ukraine.

"It seems to me that the United States is not so much concerned about the security of Ukraine... but its main task is to contain Russia's development," Putin says. — AFP

May 27, 2022 - 6:49pm

Russian strikes on a military facility in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro early Friday left nearly a dozen people dead and injured more than 30 others, a local defense official says.

"A national guard training centre was hit this morning by Iskander missiles. People were killed. Unfortunately, about 10 people died and between 30 and 35 people have been injured," Gennady Korban, the regional head of the national guard, tells local Ukrainian media. — AFP

May 27, 2022 - 11:19am

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky accuses Moscow of carrying out a "genocide" in the eastern region of Donbas, where the city of Severodonetsk is suffering an onslaught of Russian shelling.

In his daily televised address, Zelensky condemns Moscow's brutal assault on the Donbas -- where it has redirected its forces after having failed to capture Kyiv -- adding that its bombardment could leave the entire region "uninhabited".

"All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia," he says. — AFP

May 27, 2022 - 8:04am

A Russian resolution on the health crisis in war-torn Ukraine — which made no reference to Russia's invasion — was solidly rejected by World Health Organization member states on Thursday.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of the resolution co-sponsored by Syria, while 66 voted against at the World Health Assembly, the annual gathering of 194 states which serves as the UN health agency's decision-making body.

A prior Ukrainian resolution which condemned Russia's "military aggression" in Ukraine "in the strongest terms", and called on Moscow to "cease any attacks on hospitals", was passed by 88 votes to 12. — AFP

May 26, 2022 - 8:16am

Ukraine's top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday accuses NATO of "doing literally nothing" in the face of Russia's invasion, while praising the EU for its "revolutionary" decisions to back Kyiv. 

"NATO as an alliance, as an institution, is completely sidelined and doing literally nothing. I'm sorry to say it," Kuleba tells the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

But he praises Brussels for its "revolutionary, groundbreaking decisions, which even they themselves did not expect to make". — AFP

May 25, 2022 - 8:02am

The self-proclaimed leader of the Moscow-backed separatist region of Donetsk said Tuesday Russian and separatist forces were fighting to take full control of the town of Lyman and have already captured half of it.

"The active phase of the liberation of Krasny Liman is underway," separatist leader Denis Pushilin said on the pro-Kremlin Solovyov Live YouTube programme.

Located in the north of the eastern Donetsk region, Krasny Liman is the old name of the Ukrainian town of Lyman. — AFP

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