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Live blog: Kiev slams Putin’s nuclear plans, calls for UNSC session

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Ukraine has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over Russia’s announcement that it would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“Russia once again confirms its chronic inability to be a responsible steward of nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence and prevention of war, not as a tool of threats and intimidation,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Ukraine expects effective actions to counteract the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail from the United Kingdom, China, the United States and France… We demand that an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council be immediately convened for this purpose.”

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1950 GMT — EU may start accession talks with Ukraine in June: Serbia

Supposing Kiev fails in the battlefield against Russia, the European Union may start negotiations on Ukraine’s accession this June, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said.

Vucic told Pink TV that the talks are expected to be supported by the United States, which is trying to create its own influence zone in Brussels.

“The negotiations may start in June since Ukraine will almost certainly be unable to win militarily. I expect it (Ukraine) to receive a great impulse on its way to the bloc,” Vucic said.

“I believe that a decision will be made to urgently start talks with possible emergency accession to the EU since there is a competition for NATO leadership and the Americans are trying to establish their own bloc inside the EU,” he added.

1914 GMT — Lithuania to call for sanctions over Russian plan for nuclear weapons in Belarus

Lithuania has said it would call for new sanctions against Moscow and Minsk in response to Russia’s plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The statement from Lithuania’s foreign ministry came hours after NATO criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for what it called his “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric.

Lithuania will ask for the additional sanctions on Russia and Belarus to be included in a package of penalties being discu ssed in Brussels, the ministry’s spokesperson said.

“Together with its Euro-Atlantic partners, Lithuania will decide how to react to these militaristic plans of the Russian and Belarusian regimes,” the ministry said in a statement.

1713 GMT — Thousands sing for peace in war-torn Ukraine

Choirs from across the world have joined their voices to sing for peace in Ukraine, with nearly 300 singers gathering in Madrid where the initiative began a year ago.

Under cloudless blue skies, singers from 46 choirs in and around the Spanish capital gathered outside the Reina Sofia art museum and began singing at midday (1000 GMT) in an event involving thousands of others across Europe and Latin America.

This year, choirs joined from 81 locations in nine countries, with 1,000 singers from Ukraine joining their voices with others from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Portugal and Venezuela.

The simultaneous event, which was broadcast live on YouTube, was organised by Choirs for Peace, an initiative started by Madrid choir a month after the war began.

1604 GMT — US crossed ‘all bounds’ in effort to assert ‘hegemony’:  Russia

Russia has said that the US has crossed “all bounds” of diplomatic and ethical norms in an effort to assert its hegemony.

“You can expect anything from the United States. They have already overstepped all bounds, diplomatic, ethical, any other, in the desire to secure their hegemony,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with TV channel Rossiya-24.

Russia has framed US opposition to its 13-month-old war on Ukraine as an attempt to enforce American “hegemony.”

1533 GMT — No indication Russia has moved nuclear weapons to Belarus: US

The United States has seen no indication that Russia has yet moved any nuclear weapons, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Sunday, after Moscow announced it would station tactical nuclear arms in Belarus.

“We have not seen any indication that he (Russian President Vladimir Putin) has made good on this pledge or moved any nuclear weapons around,” Kirby told CBS.

1459 GMT — Ukrainian drone caused blast far from border, three hurt: Russia

Russian authorities have said a Ukrainian drone caused an explosion that injured three people in a town far from the two countries’ border.

The Russian state-run news agency Tass reported authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141.

The explosion occurred Sunday afternoon in the town of Kireyevsk, in the Tula region about 300 kilometres (180 miles) from the border with Ukraine and 175 kilometres (110 miles) south of Moscow.

1412 GMT — Russian missiles strike two apartment blocks in Ukraine’s Donetsk region

Russian missiles have struck two apartment blocks in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, said the head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office.

“The Russians continue to shell Avdiivka. They carried out a missile attack on two apartment blocks,” Andriy Yermak said in a message on his Telegram account.

Yermak added that no casualties were reported thus far.

1226 GMT — Berlin condemns Russian nuclear weapon deployment in Belarus

Germany has condemned a decision by Putin to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, bringing the arms closer to the European Union.

The announcement was “another attempt at nuclear intimidation by Russia”, an official in the foreign office told AFP news agency.

Germany would not allow itself to be “put off our course” by Moscow’s move, the source said on condition of anonymity.

“The comparison made by President Putin to nuclear sharing in NATO is misleading and does not justify the step announced by Russia,” the source said.

1223 GMT — Russia’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible, NATO says

NATO has criticised Russia for its “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric, a day after Putin said Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“NATO is vigilant, and we are closely monitoring the situation. We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own,” a NATO spokesperson said.

“Russia’s reference to NATO’s nuclear sharing is totally misleading. NATO allies act with full respect of their international commitments. Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New START Treaty.”

1005 GMT — Putin rejects claims of military alliance between Russia, China

Russia and China are not creating a military alliance and the cooperation between their armed forces is “transparent”, Putin has said in comments broadcast days after hosting Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Kremlin.

Putin and Xi professed friendship and pledged closer ties, including in the military sphere, during their March 20-21 summit, as Russia struggles to make battlefield gains in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“We are not creating any military alliance with China,” Putin said on state television. “Yes, we have cooperation in the sphere of military-technical interaction. We are not hiding this.

“Everything is transparent, there is nothing secret.”

China and Russia signed a “no limits” partnership accord in early 2022, just weeks before Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine. 

0830 GMT — Japan premier’s visit to Ukraine signals ‘strong solidarity’ of the West

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s trip to war-hit Ukraine “signalled strong solidarity” of the West with Kiev, according to experts who spoke to Anadolu Agency.

“The timing of the visit is also symbolic,” said Jingdong Yuan, an international affairs scholar at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, referring to Kishida’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev earlier this week.

Kishida met Zelenskyy “exactly” when Xi was in Moscow meeting with Putin, he said.

0649 GMT — Ukraine accuses Russia of taking Belarus as a ‘nuclear hostage’

Kiev has said Moscow was holding Minsk as a “nuclear hostage” after Putin announced the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to ally Belarus.

“The Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov, wrote on Twitter, adding that the move was “a step towards the internal destabilisation of the country”.

On Saturday, Putin said he and strongman Alexander Lukashenko “agreed” Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Lukashenko, who has been in power in Belarus for almost 30 years, is a key Putin ally.

0634 GMT — Russian campaign looks to recruit additional fighters

A new campaign is underway this spring across Russia, seeking recruits to replenish its troops for the war in Ukraine.

As fighting grinds on in Ukrainian battlegrounds like Bakhmut and both sides prepare for counteroffensives that could cost even more lives, the Kremlin’s war machine needs new recruits.

A mobilisation in September of 300,000 reservists — billed as a “partial” call-up — sent panic throughout the country, since most men under 65 are formally part of the reserve.

Tens of thousands fled Russia rather than report to recruiting stations.

The Kremlin denies that another call-up is planned for what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, now more than a year old.

0419 GMT — No more ‘dangerous’ money printing to fund war: Ukraine bank chief

Ukraine will no longer resort to “dangerous” monetary financing to fund the war against Russia, its central bank governor, Andriy Pyshnyi, told the Financial Times in an interview.

The head of the National Bank of Ukraine said that it had “created huge risks for macro-financial stability” when the bank was last year forced to print billions of hryvnia to plug a budget shortfall, adding that an “open conflict” with the government over the issue had been resolved.

“It was a quick remedy, but very dangerous,” Pyshnyi told the newspaper. 

0116 GMT — Spain’s PM to push for ‘territorial integrity’ for Ukraine in China visit

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said he would push for fair peace in the war in Ukraine that included “territorial integrity” during a state visit to China next week.

Sanchez, speaking to journalists at the Ibero-American Summit meeting in the Dominican Republic, said he would discuss peace prospects with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is trying to position himself as a mediator in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Spain, a NATO member whose foreign policy is closely aligned with the United States, is a staunch ally of Ukraine and will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union in July.

Last month, Beijing outlined a 12-point peace plan and called for a comprehensive ceasefire. Xi recently travelled to Moscow, where he described China’s position on the conflict as “impartial”.

2151 GMT — US sees ‘no indication’ Russia plans to use nukes in Ukraine

The US Department of Defense has said that there are no indications that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons after Moscow’s announcement to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“We have seen reports of Russia’s announcement and will continue to monitor this situation,” the Department of Defense’s press office said in a written statement.

“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon. 

We remain committed to the collective defence of the NATO alliance.”

2142 GMT — US involved in Nord Stream explosions: Putin

Putin has agreed with the conclusions drawn by American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that US special services were involved in the Nord Stream pipeline explosions.

“The American journalist, who has become rather famous now worldwide, carried out such an investigation and as we know, drew a conclusion that the blast on the gas pipelines was organised by the US special services. I fully agree with such conclusions,” Putin said, according to TASS news agency.

“I believe that it will be hard to attain this (the truth about the Nord Stream incident), but someday it will probably come out for sure what was done and how,” Putin added.

For our live updates from Saturday (March 25), click here.

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