Russian official warns West of destruction over arming Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament warned Sunday that countries supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons risked their own destruction, an announcement followed by new promises of armored vehicles, air defense systems and other equipment, but not battle tanks Kyiv asked.

Backers of Ukraine pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine during a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, although the new commitments were marred by failure to agree on Ukraine’s urgent request for German Leopard 2 battle tanks.

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said governments providing more powerful weapons to Ukraine could cause “a global tragedy that will destroy their countries.”

“Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” he said. “If Washington and NATO deliver weapons that would be used to strike peaceful cities and attempt to seize our territory, as they are threatening to do, it will provoke retaliation with more powerful weapons.”

Germany is one of Ukraine’s main arms donors and has ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stockpile in preparation for a possible green light. However, the government in Berlin has shown caution at every step of increasing its commitments to Ukraine, which is hesitancy seen as rooted in its history and political culture.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was not ruling out sending Leclerc battle tanks to Ukraine and asked his defense minister to “work” on the idea.

Macron spoke at a press conference in Paris with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as their countries mark the 60th anniversary of the friendship treaty since World War II. In a joint statement, France and Germany pledged their “unwavering support” for Ukraine.

France will make its decision on the tanks based on three criteria, Macron said: that sharing the equipment does not escalate the conflict, that it will provide effective and operational assistance when training time is taken into account, and that it does not weaken France’s own army .

Scholz did not respond to a question about the Leopard 2 tanks on Sunday, but stressed that his country has already made a significant military contribution to Ukraine.

“The US is doing a lot, Germany is also doing a lot,” he said. “We are constantly expanding our supply with highly effective weapons that are already available today.” And we have always coordinated all these decisions closely with our important allies and friends.”

Germany’s hesitancy has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel particularly threatened by Russia’s renewed aggression.

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

“Almost a year has passed since the war broke out,” Morawiecki said in an interview with 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 more does Germany need to open its eyes and start acting in accordance with the potential of the German state?

In Washington, two leading lawmakers called on the US on Sunday to send some of its Abrams tanks to Ukraine in an effort to overcome Germany’s reluctance to share its own, better-suited tanks.

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

Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke out in favor of sending Abrams out of the US.

“If that requires us to send some Abrams tanks to unlock the receipt of Leopard tanks from Germany, from Poland, from other allies, I would support that,” Coons said.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said the US-led meeting at the air base in Germany “leaves no doubt that our enemies will try to wear us down or better yet destroy us”, adding that “they have enough weapons” achieves the goal.

Medvedev, a former Russian president, warned on his messaging app channel that “in the event of a prolonged conflict” Russia may try to form a military alliance with “nations fed up with the Americans and a pack of their neutered dogs. ”

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

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, warned that Russia may try to step up its attacks in the south and east and cut off Western arms supply channels, while capturing Kyiv “remains the main dream” of President Vladimir Putin’s “fantasies,” he said.

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

Among those calling for more weapons for Ukraine was former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday. Johnson, who was photographed in the town of Borodyanka in Kyiv Oblast, said he traveled to Ukraine at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“This is the time to redouble our efforts and give Ukrainians all the tools they need to get the job done.” The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and the world,” Johnson said in a statement.

It was last week especially tragic for Ukraine even by the standards of a brutal war that has lasted almost a year, killing tens of thousands of people, uprooting millions more and causing massive destruction to Ukrainian cities.

A volley of Russian rockets hit a residential complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on January 14, killing at least 45 civilians. On Wednesday, a government helicopter crashed into a kindergarten building in a suburb of Kyiv. Ukraine’s interior minister, other officials and a child on the ground were among the 14 killed.

Zelensky promised on Sunday that Ukraine would ultimately prevail 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 as he marked Ukraine’s Unity Day, which commemorates the unification of eastern and western Ukraine in 1919.


Sylvie Corbett in Paris contributed.


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