Russian official warns West of destruction for weaponizing Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament warned on Sunday that countries supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons risk their own destruction, a message that followed new pledges of armored vehicles, air defense systems and other equipment, but not the battle tanks Kiev wanted.

Ukraine’s supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine on Friday, though the new pledges were overshadowed by the failure of defense leaders at an international meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to reach agreement on Ukraine’s urgent request for German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said governments giving more powerful weapons to Ukraine could create a “global tragedy that would destroy their countries”.

“Delivery of offensive weapons to the Kiev regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” he said. “If Washington and NATO provide weapons that could be used to capture peaceful cities and attempt to seize our territory, as they threaten to do, it would lead to retaliation with more powerful weapons.”

Germany is one of the main arms donors to Ukraine and has ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stockpiles in preparation for a possible green light. Nevertheless, the government in Berlin has taken caution every step of the way in increasing its commitments to Ukraine, a hesitation seen as rooted in its history and political culture.

France and Germany pledged to show “unwavering support”. to Ukraine in ceremonies and talks on Sunday to mark the 60th anniversary of their post-World War II friendship treaty. In a joint statement, the countries said they will “stand by Ukraine as long as necessary”.

Germany’s caution has drawn heavy criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that have historically been controlled by Moscow and feel particularly threatened by Russia’s newfound imperial ambitions.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that if Germany does not agree to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine, his country is willing to build a “smaller coalition” of countries that would send theirs anyway.

“Almost a year has passed since the outbreak of war,” Morawiecki said in an interview with the Polish state news agency PAP published on Sunday. “Evidence of the Russian military’s war crimes can be seen on television and on YouTube. What else does Germany need to open its eyes and start acting in accordance with the potential of the German state?”

Above all, Berlin must not weaken or sabotage the activities of other countries,” Morawiecki said.

In Washington, two senior lawmakers on Sunday urged the US to send some of its Abrams tanks to Ukraine in the interest of overcoming Germany’s reluctance to share its own, more capable Leopard 2 tanks.

“If we announced that we were giving an Abrams tank, just one, it would unleash the flood of tanks from Germany,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to ABC’s “This Week on Sunday.” “What I hear is that Germany is waiting for us to take the lead.”

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is considered close to President Joe Biden, also spoke out in favor of the US sending Abrams.

“I am concerned that Russia is rearming and preparing for a spring offensive,” Coons said. “If it required us to send some Abrams tanks to get the Leopard tanks out of Germany, Poland or other allies, I would support that.”

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said the meeting in Ramstein “left no doubt that our enemies will try to exhaust us or rather destroy us”, adding that “they have enough weapons” in order to achieve the goal.

Medvedev, a former Russian president, warned on his messaging app channel that Russia could try to form a military alliance with enemies of the United States. He did not name the countries he had in mind, but Russia has defense cooperation with Iran and Venezuela, an existing military alliance with Belarus and strong ties with North Korea. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has also increased both the scope and number of its joint military exercises with China.

“In the event of a protracted conflict, a new military alliance will emerge that will include the nations fed up with the Americans and a pack of their neutered dogs,” Medvedev said.

Ukraine is asking for more weapons as it expects Russian forces to launch a new offensive in the spring.

Oleksii Danilov, the secretary of the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, warned that Russia could try to intensify its attacks in the south and east and cut the supply channels of Western weapons, while capturing Kiev “remains the main dream” in the plans of President Vladimir Putin. “fantasies,” he said.

In a column published by the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda. he described the Kremlin’s goal in the conflict as a “total and absolute genocide, a total war of annihilation”

Among those calling for more guns for Ukraine was former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday.

“Now is the time to double down and give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to get the job done. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson, who is facing new questions about his personal finances at home, was photographed in the Kiev region of Borodyanka. He said he traveled to Ukraine at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The past week in particular has been tragic for Ukraine, even by the standards of a brutal war that has lasted almost a year, which has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions more, and devastated Ukrainian cities.

A barrage of Russian missiles hit an apartment complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on January 14, killing at least 45 civilians, including six children. A government helicopter carrying the interior minister and other officials crashed into a building housing a kindergarten in a Kiev suburb on Wednesday. The minister and a child on the ground were among the 14 killed.

Zelenskyy, who mourned the victims on Saturday of the helicopter crash, vowed on Sunday that Ukraine would be victorious in the war.

“We are united because we are strong. We are strong because we are united,” the Ukrainian leader said in a video address on the occasion of Ukraine’s Unity Day, the day in 1919 when eastern and western Ukraine were united.


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