World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 22 FEBRUARY 2023

Putin halts nuclear pact; Biden says war in Europe ‘will never be a victory for Russia’

Putin halts nuclear pact; Biden says war in Europe ‘will never be a victory for Russia’
US President Joe Biden during an address at the Royal Warsaw Castle Gardens in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday, 21 February 2023. Biden hit back at Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he would never win his war in Ukraine in a speech marking the one-year point of his invasion. (Photo: Damian Lemaski / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will suspend its observation of the New START nuclear weapons treaty with the US, a decision Secretary of State Antony Blinken called ‘irresponsible’.

In his first State of the Nation Address in nearly two years, Vladimir Putin struck a defiant tone, reiterating that Moscow would continue to fight for its “historic lands” in Ukraine. 

Read more: Russia’s war in Ukraine: Key events and how it’s unfolding

As the one-year mark since Russia’s invasion draws closer, US President Joe Biden thanked his Polish counterpart for welcoming displaced Ukrainians during a meeting in Warsaw, where he delivered an address after Monday’s surprise trip to Kyiv to meet Volodymyr Zelensky. Biden dismissed a claim made by Putin blaming the US and Ukraine’s allies for the war, saying that the Russian leader could end the conflict with a word.

Key developments

On the ground

Russia shelled the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, killing five people and wounding 16, the city council said on its website.

Russian forces fired more than 30 salvos with multiple launch rocket systems, including at Kherson, causing fatalities among the civilian population, the Ukrainian General Staff said on Facebook.

Biden says Putin will never find victory in his war on Ukraine

Biden dismissed a claim made by Putin blaming the US and Ukraine’s allies for the war, saying that the Russian leader could end the conflict with a word.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia,” the US president said during a visit to Warsaw, adding that the US and its allies would announce new sanctions against Moscow this week.

“The United States and the nations of Europe do not seek to control or destroy Russia,” the president said. “The West was not planning to attack Russia, as Putin said today. And millions of Russian citizens only want to live in peace with their neighbours.”

IMF chief sees ‘sizeable’ full-fledged loan possible for Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund is prepared to provide sizeable economic support for Ukraine under a new full-fledged loan programme, according to the organisation’s managing director.

Kristalina Georgieva praised Ukraine’s efforts to transform its economy, which contracted more than 30% last year in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion. 

“Based on the performance of the Ukrainian authorities, we are confident that it could be sizeable support from us,” she said after a visit to Kyiv on Monday.

China’s top envoy says relations with Russia solid

Relations between China and Russia are “solid as rock and will stand the trials of the changing international situation”, State Councilor Wang Yi said at a meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, broadcast on Russian state television.

The envoy, who is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday, said China is ready with Russia to defend national interests and “promote mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas”.

 

 

 

Germany stresses need for nuclear agreements

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz responded to Putin’s decision to suspend the New START treaty by saying all efforts should be made to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

“We have to do everything to make sure that the safety of our planet is guaranteed,” he told reporters in the city of Duisburg.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had said earlier during a trip to Turkey that “at this moment we realise how important nuclear disarmament agreements are, and we stress this point at a moment when Putin wants to suspend it”.

Biden pledges continued cooperation in Warsaw meeting

Biden thanked Polish President Andrzej Duda for welcoming displaced Ukrainians and pledged continued cooperation in countering Russian aggression.

“The United States needs Poland and Nato as much as Nato needs the United States,” Biden told Duda during a meeting in Warsaw. “I would argue that Nato is stronger than it’s ever been.”

The Polish leader praised Biden’s trip to Kyiv for boosting morale, saying it was a gesture not only to Nato allies, but also people standing on the side of the free world.

Ukraine eyes at least $5-billion from IMF

Ukraine hopes to seal a new deal with the IMF and get at least $5-billion during the first year of a programme that may be endorsed as soon as next month, a person familiar with the matter said.

Ukraine needs $38-billion in external financing in 2023 and should get $28-billion in grants and loans from the European Union and the US, according to its Finance Ministry.

Blinken says suspension of New START treaty irresponsible

Blinken called Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the treaty “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”.

The Biden administration, he said, will “be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does” and ensure the US is “postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies”.

The extension of New START in 2021 was in the security interests of both countries, Blinken told reporters in Athens, adding that the administration remained ready to talk about strategic arms limitations with Russia.

Stoltenberg urges Russia to reconsider on arms pact

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to reconsider its position on the New START treaty, saying walking away from the pact “makes the world more dangerous”.

“This is just another example that we’re moving away from the arms control architecture,” he said in Brussels. “We used decades to build this.”

Stoltenberg rebutted Putin’s address, during which the Russian leader said the US and its European allies were to blame for the war in Ukraine, with the alliance chief saying, “Russia is the aggressor. Ukraine is the victim of aggression.”

China may provide lethal aid to Russia, Nato chief says

Stoltenberg also warned that China may provide Moscow with weapons. Earlier, Secretary of State Blinken accused China of privately weighing whether to give Russia weapons, even while saying “they haven’t crossed that line yet”.

“We are also increasingly concerned that China may be planning to provide lethal support for Russia’s war,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

Russia will suspend participation in START nuclear pact

Putin said Russia will suspend its observation of the New START treaty, dealing a blow to the last accord with the US limiting their strategic arsenals.

Russia won’t allow the US and Nato to inspect its nuclear facilities, though it won’t be the first to resume testing of its atomic weapons, Putin said in his state of the nation address. 

The treaty that was extended in 2021 is due to expire in 2026.

Suspending the treaty means the US could lose access to inspections and monitoring data about the number of deployed Russian nuclear warheads, as well as the land- and sea-based vehicles used to launch them. 

About 200 inspectors drawn from the Department of Defence, the intelligence community and the State Department are assigned to carry out verification under New START, according to Steven Pifer, the former US ambassador to Ukraine who conducted arms control negotiations with Russia.

Read more: Why US-Russia ‘New START’ nuclear treaty is in peril

Putin remains defiant on Russian invasion

Putin vowed to press on with his faltering invasion of Ukraine until Russia’s goals are achieved, and threatened a backlash if the US and its allies supply the government in Kyiv with long-range missiles.

“We will fulfil the tasks set step-by-step, carefully and consistently,” Putin told the Russian parliament and top officials in Moscow on Tuesday, to repeated applause.

“One thing should be clear to everyone – the more long-range Western systems arrive in Ukraine, the further we will be forced to move the threat away from our borders. It’s obvious.”

As Russia’s war in Ukraine nears the 12-month mark on 24 February, Putin focused his first state-of-the-nation address in nearly two years on efforts to shift the blame for the conflict to the US and its allies, where he claimed godlessness and paedophilia have become “the norm”.

Russian mercenary chief lashes out at military top brass

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russian mercenary group Wagner, accused top military commanders of refusing to supply his fighters with ammunition.

“I’m not poking you in the nose for the fact that you sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner with gold dishes, and send your daughters, granddaughters and bugs on vacation to Dubai,” Prigozhin said in an audio file posted on Telegram.

“You’re not embarrassed by anything. At the moment when Russian soldiers are dying at the front. I’m just asking: give me ammunition!”

Prigozhin has been in conflict with the defence ministry over his mercenaries’ role in the Ukraine war, in competition with regular armed forces.

 

 

China peace plan ‘must include Russian withdrawal’

Any Chinese proposal to end the war in Ukraine must include a complete Russian withdrawal behind its own borders otherwise it won’t work, according to the vice president of the European Commission.

Read more: China looks to show world it can broker Russia-Ukraine peace

“China always says that one should respect borders, so if that’s the starting point for the peace plan, then it could work,” the EU’s Frans Timmermans said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio.

“But if the peace plan assumes that the territory Russia has taken remains Russian, then it won’t fly,” he said, adding that if it turns out China is supplying the Kremlin with weapons, that would have “very serious consequences” for the bloc’s ties with the government in Beijing.

German exports to Russia slump

German exports to Russia declined by 57.5% to €900-million ($960-million) in January compared with the same month a year earlier due to the war and sanctions, according to Federal Statistics Office data.

Russia therefore dropped to 12th among the most important destinations for German exports outside the EU, from fifth before it launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbour.

US pledges most support to Ukraine

The US has once again taken the lead in pledging support for Ukraine, having earmarked more than $77.9-billion for Kyiv, according to data compiled by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

The European Union follows with commitments of about €55-billion.

The US has given about €44-billion in military aid since January 2022, according to the institute’s latest Ukraine Support Tracker, far outstripping commitments from other countries.

The UK was the next-largest donor, contributing about €5-billion in military equipment. DM

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