Joe Biden on Thursday promised for the first time a NATO “response” in the conflict in Ukraine if Russia resorted to chemical weapons there. A risk considered very real at the Alliance’s summits and the G7 summit in Brussels after a month of war.
At the same time, the United Nations General Assembly in New York voted by 140 votes to 5, with 38 abstentions, a proposal that called for an immediate end to the Russian offensive. In this situation, Westerners found the risk of a chemical attack very credible, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned them against Thursday in a video intervention from Kiev.
‘We will answer if there is an appeal. The nature of the reaction will depend on the nature of this use, “Biden said after the NATO and G7 summits in Brussels. ‘NATO has never been more united (…) Putin gets exactly the opposite of what he wanted by invading Ukraine,’ he assured, again warning China of any support for Moscow that could bring ‘its economic future’ in danger.
Asked about possible ‘red lines’ that are likely to trigger an intervention, French President Emmanuel Macron preferred to be ‘very cautious’. In the case of Ukraine: “I think strategic ambiguity and estimates are more effective,” he said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time that the Allies had ‘agreed to provide equipment to help Ukraine protect itself from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats’.
NATO leaders also approved the creation of four new battle groups in Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia and the reinforcement of the four already formed in Poland and the Baltic countries.
More than 100,000 US troops are currently present in Europe, and more than 40,000 troops are under direct NATO command in the eastern part of the Alliance. “This is unheard of,” Mr Stoltenberg said.
In an initial video message Thursday to NATO leaders, the Ukrainian president had called on them to provide Ukraine with “unlimited military aid.”
The United States “has initiated consultations (with its allies) to supply anti-ship missiles to Ukraine,” said a senior U.S. official, stressing, however, that this scenario presented “technical challenges.”
Sweden and Germany, for their part, announced the delivery to Ukraine of 5,000 and 2,000 new anti-tank weapons, respectively. Ukrainian forces have already received 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger-type ground-to-air missile launchers taken from Bundeswehr’s reserves. Finland will also send military aid and additional weapons to Kiev, the country’s prime minister announced.
Sanctions against Russian gold
On the economic front, the G7 and EU countries will sanction any transaction involving Russia’s gold reserves in order to prevent Moscow from circumventing the economic isolation measures taken by the West, Parliament announced.
Washington also announced on Thursday new economic sanctions against Russia, targeting the political world, oligarchs and the defense industry. London had already announced a new round of sanctions targeting 59 Russian personalities and companies and six Belarusian entities. Belarusians.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday night accused Russia of having “committed war crimes in Ukraine”. “We have seen many credible reports of random attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities,” he said in a statement.
The G7 countries also assured on Thursday that they would not “shy away from any forces” to hold Vladimir Putin and his supporters “responsible” for the invasion of Ukraine.
On the ground, at least five people, including two children, died in Russian strikes in the Lugansk region (east), according to the region’s governor, Serguiï Gaïdaï. ‘The Russian air force started throwing phosphorus bombs at Rubizhne,’ he accused.
In his message to NATO, the Ukrainian president passed on these accusations: ‘This morning (…) there were Russian phosphorus bombs. Adults were killed and children were killed again.
On the ground, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that his paramilitary militia, fighting alongside the Russian army, had occupied the town hall in the besieged and bombed city of Mariupol (southeast). Information impossible to verify from an independent source.
This port city on the Azov Sea, heavily bombed, and where witnesses described corpses scattered in the streets, would be the first significant urban area occupied by Russia, after a month-long offensive in which the Russian army fought in the face of fierce resistance from the Ukrainians , armed by NATO.
Mariupol municipality appealed for help and asked to save the population ‘from hell’. »More and more hunger. More and more people without food. And all attempts to launch a major humanitarian operation to save the people of Mariupol are blocked by the Russian side. Because the occupiers are not interested in people and what they become. Only for a propaganda image with the forced deportation to Russia, “she wrote on Telegram.
The Ukrainians are in fact accusing the Russians of ‘deporting’ the inhabitants of Mariupol to Russia. The head of the Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba, mentioned 6,000 inhabitants who were taken to ‘Russian filtration camps’.
These allegations could not be immediately verified, but the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed for its part that ‘8,500 residents of Mariupol could be evacuated without the participation of the Ukrainian part on March 23’, according to the Interfax agency.
Millions of children on the run
About 4.3 million children – more than half of Ukraine’s child population – have had to leave their homes to escape insecurity and fighting triggered by the Russian army’s invasion on February 24, the report said.
According to Washington, however, the Russian army’s offensive is stalling, especially near Kiev. “The Ukrainians managed to repel the Russians 55 km east and northeast of Kiev,” a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday, asking for anonymity.
The Ukrainian navy also claimed on Thursday that it destroyed a Russian troop transport ship anchored in the port of Berdyansk, near Mariupol on the Azov Sea.
Russians and Ukrainians also exchanged prisoners on Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Facebook.