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Live blog: US defends UK plan to give depleted uranium ammo to Ukraine

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

2037 GMT — US dismisses Russian complaints on UK depleted uranium ammunition

The United States has dismissed Russian complaints about Britain’s announcement that it will send Ukraine armour-piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby called Moscow’s complaints a “strawman” argument.

The ammunition, which enhances ability to overcome defences on tanks, “is not radioactive” and “not anywhere close to going into” the sphere of nuclear weaponry, Kirby said.

“This is a commonplace type of munition that is used particularly for its armour-piercing capabilities. So again, if Russia is particularly concerned about the welfare of their tanks and their tank soldiers… they could just take them across the border back into Russia,” he said.

“I think what’s really going on here is Russia just doesn’t want Ukraine to continue to take out its tanks.”

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2030 GMT – Erdogan to speak with Putin on grain deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will have a phone call in the coming days with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the Black Sea grain initiative.

“We will have a phone call with Putin in two-three days,” Erdogan said. 

He said that the world appreciates Türkiye’s mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine.

“We are already acknowledged in the world. Türkiye’s success is on everyone’s lips in the world,” he added.

The president also recalled Putin’s offer to send grain to poor countries free of charge.

He added that Türkiye is in preparation for buying wheat to turn it into flour and sending it to poor countries.

1825 GMT — Czech president says Western support for Ukraine could wane

The president of the Czech Republic expects Western support for Ukraine to decline over time, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung has quoted him as saying, in one of the first statements from a NATO member signalling support for Kiev could wane.

The Czech government and other NATO members have been providing military aid to Ukraine. But Petr Pavel, a former NATO general, said the result of the presidential election in the United States next year would impact European support for Ukraine, and Kiev must recognise that this year is decisive.

“If support from the USA dwindles, support from a number of European countries will also dwindle. Ukraine must take that into account,” Pavel said.

“We have to take war fatigue into account and what it means for support from Western countries. This will decrease over time,” Pavel was quoted as saying.

1730 GMT — China has not ‘crossed line’ on lethal aid to Russia: Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China has not provided substantial military aid to Russia despite Beijing’s ramping up of diplomatic support. 

Blinken has publicly warned for weeks that China is considering Russian requests for weapons to fight in Ukraine, with some reports indicating limited shipments by Chinese companies to Moscow. 

“As we speak today, we have not seen them cross that line,” America’s top diplomat said in response to a question at a Senate committee on whether China was providing “lethal aid” to Russia.

1820 GMT — Ukraine to ‘respond to every blow’ after Russian attacks: Zelenskyy 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his country would “respond to every blow” after Russian strikes killed at least seven people in the Kiev region, and claimed another victim in southern Zaporizhzhia. 

“We will certainly respond to every blow of the occupier on our cities,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “today’s Russian strikes on Zaporizhzhia, the night attack on the Kiev region … All Russian strikes will receive a military, political and legal response.”

1702 GMT — Prince William visits Poland to support ally helping Ukraine 

Prince William has travelled to Poland for a surprise visit that underscored Britain’s support for a nation on the front line of efforts to help refugees displaced by the conflict in Ukraine and to assist Ukraine’s military in fighting off the Russian offensive.  

The heir to the throne met with British and Polish troops in Rzeszow, a city of 200,000 people in southeastern Poland that has become a hub for shipments of military and humanitarian aid bound for Ukraine.  

Located just 65 kilometres (40 miles) from the Ukrainian border, Rzeszow is also a key transit point for refugees.

1506 GMT — Ukraine needs $411B for reconstruction, recovery: World Bank

Ukraine’s needs for reconstruction and recovery have grown to $411 billion, just over a year since Russia’s military campaign in the country, the World Bank said.

The assessment, made jointly by Ukraine’s government, the World Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations, also expects Kyiv to require “$14 billion for critical and priority reconstruction and recovery investments in 2023.”

Meeting these needs will call for $11 billion in financing beyond what Ukraine’s government has already addressed in its 2023 budget, according to the assessment.

1503 GMT — UK’s supply of depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine ‘step towards further escalation’: Russia 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that the UK’s supply of depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine is “a step toward further escalation.” 

“This is a step towards a further qualitative, serious increase in escalation,” Lavrov said during a press conference in the port city of Sochi, following a meeting with his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh Mohammed. 

Lavrov said that the use of depleted uranium ammunition in previous conflicts, such as the war in Yugoslavia and Iraq, led to a sharp increase in cancer cases and soil contamination, which in the case of Ukraine would sharply reduce the quality of local produce.

1415 GMT — Ecumenical patriarch: Russian Church shares blame for ‘crimes’ in Ukraine

The spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians said Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church shared responsibility for the conflict in Ukraine but that he stood ready to help in Russia’s postwar “spiritual regeneration.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s comments are a rebuke for Russian Patriarch Kirill, whose full-throated blessing for Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine has splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church.

Bartholomew, who in 2019 infuriated Moscow by recognising the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine, said Russian authorities were using the Church as an “instrument for their strategic objectives.”

1335 GMT — Slovakia offered $1bn in US arms in trade-off for Ukraine aid

Slovakia said it had received a US offer of $1 billion in helicopters and missiles at a discounted rate in compensation for promising to send MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine.

“We were the first to receive this extremely advantageous offer. If we don’t take them, they will go to another country,” Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said on Facebook.

“The value of this material is slightly over $1 billion… Slovakia would pay around $340 million over a period of three to four years,” he added.

The offer includes 12 new Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters with accessories, p ilot and technician training, along with more than 500 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, he said.

1203 GMT — Russian navy ‘repelled’ drone attack on Crimea port

The Russian navy “repelled” a drone attack early on the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, the Kremlin-backed city governor said.

The peninsula, seized by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, is home to Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet and has been hit by a series of drone attacks since the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine.

“In total, three objects have been destroyed,” the Russian-supported governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev said on Telegram.

He said sailors had shot at the drones with “small arms” and that “air defence was also working”.

Razvozhayev said there were no casualties and claimed no ships had been damaged but that the explosions blew out windows in nearby buildings.

1155 GMT — Zelenskyy’s surprise visit to Bakhmut 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited military positions near the frontline town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, the scene of the longest and bloodiest battle since Russia’s offensive. 

“Donetsk region. The frontline positions of the Ukrainian military in the Bakhmut area,” Zelenskyy wrote on social media in English. 

“I am honoured to be here today to award our heroes. To shake hands and thank them for protecting the sovereignty of our country.”

1010 GMT — Russia says US ‘asking for’ countermeasures, warns not to ‘test patience’

Russia has said that the US is “asking for” countermeasures by declaring it would continue flights over the Black Sea, despite Moscow’s implementation of a “special regime” in Ukraine, and warned Washington to not “test its patience.” 

“It (the drone) stayed in the area where we introduced a special regime under the special military operation. The Americans demonstratively, cynically and in outright public form deny the legitimacy of these steps and state their intentions to continue actions of this kind.

“They are, as the saying goes, ‘asking for’ our countermeasures and we warn them against the attempts to play on nerves and test our patience,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow. 

1005 GMT — Poland slams ‘dangerous’ Russia-China ‘axis’

Poland’s prime minister branded the China-Russian alliance “dangerous” after Chinese leader Xi Jinping wrapped up a three-day visit to Moscow. 

“The Chinese president’s visit to Moscow makes us anxious, this China-Moscow axis is dangerous,” Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters after hosting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Warsaw. 

Xi left Russia following a summit with President Vladimir Putin that hailed a “new era” in their relations, putting on a display of unity against the West.

0955 GMT — Kremlin dismisses ‘hostile’ reaction to Putin-Xi talks

The Kremlin shrugged off the West’s “hostile” reaction to the summit between President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“As for the reaction of the collective West, the fact that on all issues this reaction took on an unfriendly and hostile nature is not news to anyone,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

0930 GMT — Russian drone attack on school kills four in Kiev region

Four people were killed and several more wounded in a Russian drone attack that hit a school in the Kiev region overnight, Ukrainian authorities said.

The emergency services initially said three people had been killed in the strike south of the capital Kiev but police later announced another victim.

“The fourth victim was a 40-year-old driver. The man did not go down to the shelter during the air raid alerts,” said Andrii Nebytov, the head of the Kiev region police.

0700 GMT — Slovakia gets US helicopter offer after sending jets to Ukraine

The United States has offered to sell Slovakia 12 new Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters at a two-thirds discount after Bratislava sent its retired MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said.

Nad said his government still had to approve the deal under which it would pay $340 million for a package worth more than $1 billion.

The deal was offered under the US Foreign Military Financing programme, Nad said in his post on Facebook.

0652 GMT — Ukraine war exposed negative attitude of towards Muslim refugees

The year 2022, overshadowed by Russia’s war in Ukraine, overlooked domestic issues including anti-Muslim sentiment in some countries. 

It also exposed the “stereotypical perspective” of Europeans with regards to refugees, said a new report on Islamophobia in Europe.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has uncovered the stereotypical perspective of many Europeans vis-a-vis different kinds of refugees, welcoming white, Christian (female) Ukrainians as opposed to the often-violent resistance and rejection of Muslim refugees,” said the European Islamophobia Report 2022, released on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

0645 GMT — Three killed in Russian drone strikes on Kiev region: officials

Three people were killed and another seven wounded in overnight Russian drone strikes on the Kiev region, Ukrainian officials said morning.

The Kiev Regional Military administration reported on its Telegram channel that a “civilian object” had been damaged and that rescuers were still working at the scene.

The Ukrainian military said it had shot down 16 out of 21 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched at Ukraine overnight by Russia. 

0600 GMT — Xi, Putin hail ‘new era’ of ties in united front against West

The leaders of China and Russia hailed a “new era” in their relationship, putting on a united front in Moscow.

Putin said he was open to talks on Ukraine and praised Beijing’s 12-point position paper on the conflict, which includes a call for dialogue and respect for all countries’ territorial sovereignty.

“Many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China … can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when Kiev and the West will be ready for it,” Putin said after talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“However, so far we have not seen such readiness on their part.”

0340 GMT — EU to provide other countries besides Ukraine with ‘lethal support’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief said the bloc will send lethal weapons to other countries besides Ukraine which are “increasingly interested in lethal support.”

Speaking at the Schuman Security and Defence Forum in Brussels, Josep Borrell said Europe’s response to the war in Ukraine has changed the way “we – in Europe – regard our own security and defence agenda.”

At the same time, he said it has also changed the way “you – our partners – regard our agenda” and the opportunities that it may offer.

2110 GMT — Zelenskyy says held ‘productive’ talks with Japan PM 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he held “productive talks” with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on his visit to Kiev.

“I also heard a very concrete willingness of Japan to work together with us to even more actively mobilise the world for international order, to protect against aggression, to protect against Russian terror,” he said.

2100 GMT — IMF reaches staff deal with Ukraine for $15.6B programme

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reached a staff agreement with Ukraine for a four-year financing package worth about $15.6 billion.

The agreement follows months of negotiations between IMF staff officials and Ukrainian authorities.

2016 GMT — China should urge end of Russian offensive in Ukraine: US

The US has said it does not want any truce in Ukraine “right now” and if China wants to play a constructive role in Ukraine, its president, Xi Jinping, should urge Russia to end its attack on Ukraine.

Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin emerged from two days of talks on Tuesday with warm words of friendship between China and Russia and joint criticism of the West.

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, said the US does not want to see a ceasefire in Ukraine because it would allow Russia to keep its territorial gains and let Putin regroup his forces.

For our live updates from Tuesday (March 21), click here.

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