World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 22 MARCH 2023

Putin embraces China’s blueprint to ‘end’ war; Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrives in Kyiv

Putin embraces China’s blueprint to ‘end’ war; Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrives in Kyiv
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks to Chinese President Xi Jinping (left), during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow on 20 March 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sergei Karpuhin / Sputnik / Kremlin Pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin embraced Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal for ending the war in Ukraine as a potential blueprint for peace as the leaders pledged ever-closer ties.

The Chinese proposal, which Kyiv has received coolly and other Western allies have rejected, aligns largely with Russia’s intentions and “could be used as the basis for a resolution when Kyiv and the West are ready for it,” the Russian leader said on the second day of Xi’s three-day visit.

During the Chinese leader’s visit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Kyiv for a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, making him the final Group of Seven leader to travel to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began over a year ago.

Key developments

Putin warns UK on sending Ukraine depleted-uranium shells  

Russia will be forced to respond if the UK goes ahead with plans to supply Ukraine with shells containing depleted uranium, Putin said.

“If this happened, then Russia will have to respond in an appropriate way, keeping in mind that the ‘collective West’ is starting to use weapons with a nuclear component,” Putin said in a statement after talks with Xi. The Russian leader, who has repeatedly threatened such reactions, didn’t elaborate.

The UK said it will supply the armour-piercing shells along with Challenger 2 tanks being sent to Ukraine. Depleted-uranium munitions don’t cause a nuclear explosion but use the metal’s high density to penetrate armour. The US deployed the weapon in the Iraq invasion, prompting criticism that uranium poses health risks.

China plan may become basis for war settlement: Putin 

China’s peace proposal may be taken as a basis for a future settlement in Ukraine, when Kyiv and its Western allies are ready for it, Putin said after talks with Xi.

“Many of the provisions of the peace plan proposed by China are in line with Russian approaches and could be used as the basis for a resolution when Kyiv and the West are ready for it,” Putin said alongside Xi in the Kremlin. They were his most detailed comments yet on the blueprint.

Russia’s Pushkin museum becomes second to change director  

Russia appointed a new director for the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the second major cultural institution to change leadership this year amid a wartime push for patriotic values.

Marina Loshak, the Pushkin museum’s head for the past decade, resigned. Her replacement, Elizaveta Likhacheva, used to be in a pro-Kremlin youth group that staged protest acts against cultural figures and worked for the Interior Ministry.

The respected director of Moscow’s Tretyakov Art Gallery was relieved of her post last month in favour of the daughter of a general in the FSB intelligence agency.

 

 

 

Russia raids Nobel-winning human rights group   

Russian police raided the homes of several leaders of the human rights group Memorial and opened a criminal case against one of them, the organisation said on its Telegram channel.

Oleg Orlov, co-chairman of Memorial, faces up to three years in prison on charges of repeatedly violating the law against “discrediting” the army’s actions in Ukraine. Russian authorities last year ordered the closure of Memorial, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, amid a campaign of repression against critics of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia extends pledged oil cuts through June 

Russia will keep its oil production at a reduced level through June, taking into account the current market situation, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said.

The country last month pledged to cut its crude-only output by 500,000 barrels per day in March in response to Western energy sanctions. Russia is currently close to making this pledged cut, Novak said in a statement, without providing any further details.

Nato sees Russia-China ties moving ‘closer and closer’ 

The meeting between Xi and Putin is “part of a pattern” of China and Russia coming “closer and closer,” Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg said China needs to understand Ukraine’s perspective and to engage Zelensky if it wants to be serious about brokering peace, noting Beijing still hasn’t condemned Russia’s illegal war of aggression. Still, China’s proposal includes some elements he supports, including on nuclear safety and the importance of territorial integrity, he said.

The alliance chief said Nato still hadn’t seen any proof of China delivering lethal aid to Russia, despite requests from Moscow and signs Beijing is considering whether to comply with those demands.

Only seven Nato allies meet spending goal despite Russia’s war  

Only one more Nato ally met the military alliance’s goal to spend at least 2% of economic output on defence last year, with a total of seven countries achieving the commitment despite new pledges following Russia’s invasion.

The US, UK and Poland are in line with Nato’s target, along with Estonia, Greece and Latvia. The new entry is Lithuania, according to spending estimates in Nato’s 2022 annual report published on Tuesday. The total is up from three allies when the pledge was agreed upon in 2014.

US will speed up Abrams deliveries to Ukraine 

President Joe Biden’s administration will speed up delivery of the US’s M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine by nine months, with Kyiv’s forces now expected to receive them by autumn, people familiar with the matter said.

The people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations, said the Pentagon was set to announce the accelerated timetable later on Tuesday. The move underscores the urgency the US and its allies feel in their support of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s sustained missile and artillery barrages. The US has said it will send 31 Abrams to Kyiv.

Ukraine approves $14bn boost in defence spending  

Ukraine’s Parliament approved an increase in the state budget for defence by 518 billion hryvnia ($14-billion), legislator Roksolana Pidlasa said on Facebook. The money will be used for military needs, including compensation for servicemen, and purchases of food and equipment including drones.

 

 

 

Russia flies bombers over Sea of Japan 

Russia sent two strategic bombers on a planned flight over international waters of the Sea of Japan as Kishida was scheduled to visit Zelensky in Ukraine on Tuesday.

The flight lasted more than seven hours and was carried out in compliance with international rules, the Defence Ministry in Moscow said on its Telegram channel.

Xi meets Russian prime minister after long talks with Putin 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a major topic for the leaders, according to both sides, with Putin saying before the meeting that he was ready to discuss China’s initiative for ending the war. Xi also invited Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to visit China, Interfax reported.

The US and its allies have rejected those proposals as biased toward Russia, and Ukraine has been cool, as well. Xi is expected to speak to Zelensky for the first time since the February 2022 invasion after his Russia visit. Xi had more than four hours of conversations the day before with Putin.

Russian missiles destroyed in Crimea explosion 

Russian missiles being transported by rail in Crimea were destroyed in an explosion, Ukraine’s military intelligence said on Facebook. The “mysterious” blast in Djankoi which hit Kalibr missiles “continues the process of Russia’s demilitarisation” and prepares Crimea for “de-occupation”, it said.

Russian officials said anti-aircraft batteries downed drones in the Djankoi area, where a state of emergency was declared. The wreckage injured one person and damaged a home and a store but didn’t affect the railway network, officials said. DM

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