kyiv ukraine

Ukraine scene is confusing the West. Today’s Washington Post main headline said:

Zelensky’s end game a mystery to the West Mixed signals about the status of a peace deal have heightened anxiety about the trajectory of the talks

The Washington Post report said:

‘“There are people in Ukraine who say ‘we don’t want to hear about talks, we want to fight until the end.’ But others are saying ‘at least try to negotiate.’ That’s why for the negotiating team, it’s important to be constructive,” he said.

‘The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

‘Speculation about an emerging peace deal surged on Wednesday following a report in the Financial Times that Ukrainian and Russian negotiators discussed a 15-point draft on Monday that would see Kyiv renouncing its ambitions to join NATO and swear off hosting foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for security guarantees from countries such as Britain, the United States or Turkey.

‘That same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Ukraine’s “neutral status is now being seriously discussed” and said the two sides “are close to agreeing.” A day earlier, Zelensky said Ukrainians “must admit” that the West has indicated Ukraine won’t be a member of NATO — remarks that seemed designed to prepare the Ukrainian people for concessions.

‘But officials from Russia and Ukraine later denied that the 15-point plan represented a possible solution, and Ukrainian officials said most of the reported document was merely a restatement of Russian positions.’

The Washington Post report said:

‘Zelensky will have to sell any peace deal to his own people — a tricky task if he is forced to concede too much. He has been a wildly popular wartime president, but he was an unpopular peacetime one.’

It said:

‘Any potential deal will also require buy-in from the West, which will need to lift sanctions on Moscow in exchange for its withdrawal of Russian forces.

‘But Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that a simple withdrawal of troops may not meet a U.S. standard for sanctions relief. The United States “will want to make sure that anything that’s done is, in effect, irreversible, that this can’t happen again, that Russia won’t pick up and do exactly what it’s doing in a year or two years or three years.”

‘Some eastern flank NATO members also oppose a peace agreement that concedes too much to Putin for fear of the message it would send about violations of sovereignty and international law.’

It added:

‘European countries would be unlikely to roll back sanctions at the first sign of a peace deal but would wait until there are concrete signs it is actually being implemented and respected, a senior European diplomat said.

‘A middle path could be possible, involving Ukraine setting aside its ambitions to join NATO in exchange for the integration of the separatist eastern Ukrainian territories back into Kyiv-controlled Ukraine.’

The report said:

‘Even if Zelensky manages to strike a deal, implementing it could be difficult. Ukraine’s NATO aspirations were baked into its constitution in a 2019 amendment, and changing it again would require a lengthy process that culminates in a supermajority vote of parliament. Not all political forces in the country are ready to do that, and a supermajority isn’t a sure bet, said Alex Riabchyn, a former lawmaker who voted in favor of the 2019 change.

‘The other challenge, Riabchyn said, is that Zelensky has proved so powerful a wartime communicator that Ukrainians are united behind him, with high morale and a willingness to keep fighting. A deal that seems like a defeat might not be acceptable to Ukrainian society.

‘“Ukrainians believe we are winning this war, so they might not accept painful compromises,” said Riabchyn, who now advises the government. “They might feel this is a betrayal. Zelensky raised the aspiration lines very high.”’

The report said:

‘Ultimately, what Ukraine will agree to, lies with Zelensky because of the way he has emerged as a figure of unity.

‘“It’s Zelensky who decides,” he said. “It’s about the spirit of a nation. Thousands of Ukrainians are dying. He’s a wartime leader and it’s a huge responsibility.”’

Ukrainian FM Is Ready For Talks With Russian FM

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that he is ready for fresh talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, the Ukrainian news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda reported Friday.

“I am ready to talk to him, I am ready to have a serious, substantive conversation with him,” Kuleba was quoted as saying.

Kuleba emphasized that the possible meeting should focus on finding solutions to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

On March 10, Kuleba and Lavrov met in Turkey on the sidelines of an international forum in the presence of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Ukraine’s Position At Peace Talks With Russia Has Not Changed, Says Ukraine Presidential Advisor

Ukraine’s positions at the peace talks with Russia remain unchanged, Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said on Friday.

“Our positions remain unchanged: a ceasefire, the withdrawal of troops and strict security guarantees with specific formulas,” Podolyak, who is also a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the peace talks with Russia, tweeted.

On Wednesday, Podolyak said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky may hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the coming days.

Phone-Talks Between Putin And Macron And Scholz

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Ukraine during a telephone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Friday.

The Russian president explained that the country’s armed forces were doing everything possible to save civilian lives and open humanitarian corridors for the safe evacuation of the population, in response to concerns raised by the French leader.

The leaders also talked about the developments with regard to the ongoing peace negotiations, and discussed Russia’s approach toward possible agreements.

Russian President Putin on Friday held a phone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, saying that Moscow is ready to search for solutions to the Russia-Ukraine conflict during negotiations with the Ukrainian side.

Putin criticized Kiev for “trying to delay the negotiation process in every way possible, putting forward more unrealistic proposals,” the Kremlin said.

Putin said the solutions the Russian side was searching for would be in line with its “principled approaches.”

During the conversation, Scholz called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict as soon as possible, according to a statement issued by the German government.

Putin also mentioned Russia’s humanitarian work in Mariupol, and efforts carried out by Russian armed forces to save the lives of civilians by opening humanitarian corridors and evacuating people.

Russia Sets Up No-Fly Zone Over Donbass Region

Russia has set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine’s Donbas region, Interfax reported, citing an official in the region.

Xi Urges U.S., NATO To Talk With Russia, Opposes Indiscriminate Sanctions

Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged the U.S. and NATO to have conversations with Russia to solve the problems behind the Ukraine crisis, and expressed opposition to indiscriminate sanctions, during his video meeting with US President Joe Biden on Friday.

The Ukraine crisis is not something we want to see, and the events again show that countries should not come to the point of meeting on the battlefield. Conflict and confrontation are not in anyone’s interest, and peace and security are what the international community should treasure the most, Xi said.

After Biden said the US does not seek a new Cold War, changes in China’s system, a stronger alliance against China, supporting “Taiwan secessionism” or conflict with China, Xi said he takes the remarks very seriously.

The meeting lasted nearly two hours.

Just hours before the meeting, China, in a rare move, sent tough signals, stating it will never accept US threats and coercion over the Ukraine issue and vowing to make a strong response if the U.S. takes measures harming China’s legitimate interests.

China will never accept U.S. threats and coercion, and if the U.S. takes measures that harm China’s legitimate interests and the interests of Chinese enterprises and individuals, China will not sit idly by and will make a strong response, the official stressed, noting the US should not have any illusions or miscalculations about this.

Just days after the Rome meeting between senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the US reached out to China again for a higher-level meeting, which in some Chinese analysts’ view reflected the U.S.’ growing anxiety over the uncontrollable consequences of the worsening Ukraine crisis, especially after its attempt to change China’s position failed in Rome and the U.S. is in dire need of China’s help to deal with the chaos it created but failed to handle.

Friday’s meeting is being made as the U.S. is caught in double plight: worrying about possible nuclear conflict with Russia with its extreme pressure against it and the risk of a rapid escalation of conflicts with China over the Taiwan question.

Some U.S. Media

Some U.S. media are also aware of the U.S.’ dilemma. In covering Friday’s exchange, Bloomberg News said in its headline that, “Biden looks to China for help with Putin.” An opinion piece for Bloomberg said the worse Russia does, “the greater the risks America and its European allies may face.”

Post-1991 ‘Illusions’ About The West Are Over, Says Russia

A Reuters report said:

Russia has lost any illusions about ever relying on the West and Moscow will never accept a world order dominated by the U.S., which is acting like a sheriff seeking to call all the shots in a saloon bar, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Lavrov said the West’s reaction to what Moscow has called a “special military operation” had illustrated that the West was completely dominated by the U.S. and that the EU was largely powerless.

“If there was any illusion that we could one day rely on our Western partners, this illusion is no longer there,” Lavrov told Russian state-funded RT in English.

Russia would look eastwards, he said.

“What the Americans want is a unipolar world which would not be like a global village but like an American village – or maybe like a saloon where you know the strongest calls the shots,” Lavrov said.

He added that many countries such as China, India and Brazil did not want to be ordered around by “Uncle Sam” acting like a sheriff.

Lavrov’s defiant response to the West’s effort to isolate his country echoed that of Putin, who has indicated in recent days that the post-1991 era of Russian history has drawn to a close and that from now on Moscow will look to China, India and, increasingly, inwards.

“We will now have to rely only on ourselves and on our allies who stay with us,” Lavrov said. “We are not closing the door on the West – they are doing so.”

Putin says Moscow’s actions in Ukraine were necessary because NATO’s enlargement threatened Russia, and that Moscow needed to save Russian-speaking people in Ukraine from oppression.

Diplomats Spar Over ‘Edited’ Russian Letter

Russia has accused Canada of “kindergarten-level” diplomacy in a Twitter tiff over a social media post by Canada’s UN mission.

The diplomatic spat is over a letter seeking support for a draft Russian resolution about aid in Ukraine.

Canada posted the letter to Twitter with “suggested edits”, which led to retweets from other UN missions.

A Russian diplomat has called it “Russophobic libel”.

An image of the letter – annotated in red type – was posted on Canada’s official UN mission Twitter account on Thursday. The letter, signed by Russian diplomat Vassily Nebenzia, had been sent to all UN members the previous day.

In it, Nebenzia says he is “reaching out with regards to an urgent matter related to the dire humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine”.

Canada’s annotation adds to that line: “which we have caused as a result of our illegal war of aggression”.

The letter goes on to say that “Western colleagues” are “politicizing the humanitarian issue”. Canada adds “Do you think the UN membership actually believes this? Please explain.”

‘Farcical’

Dmitry Polyanskiy, first deputy permanent representative of Russia to the UN, responded to the tweet, saying it “shows that your diplomatic skills and good manners are at lowest ebb” and reminding Canada that it twice failed to secure enough support to win a non-permanent seat on the powerful UN Security Council.

The letter was meant to boost support for a draft resolution on providing humanitarian relief in Ukraine, which was scheduled for a vote on Friday at the UN Security Council. The resolution has been criticized by Western nations for its failure to mention Russia’s responsibility for the war.

That scheduled vote was cancelled by Russia on Thursday. The United States’ envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Russia’s resolution was “farcical” and “doomed to fail”, according to the AFP news agency.

To Drive, Or Not To Drive: Germans Rethink Love Of Cars

Another Reuters report said:

Many Germans would support a car-free day a week to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas imports, a poll showed on Friday, as soaring petrol and diesel prices squeeze both households and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government.

The Civey poll for broadcaster WELT showed that 48% would support a weekly car-free Sunday to help reduce imports of Russian oil, which leaves many Germans with a sense of guilt that their driving habits are bankrolling President Vladimir Putin. Some 46% oppose the idea.

German petrol and diesel prices in February rose by almost 26% from a year ago. Just over 30% of oil imports are from Russia. Soaring prices have prompted calls to cut dependency on energy imports from Russia while shielding consumers from price spikes and preserving the economic recovery from the pandemic.

This week, the government approved tax relief measures totalling 4.5 billion euros this year, including an allowance for motorists.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner also wants to introduce a temporary rebate for petrol and diesel that would cost the state 6.6 billion euros over three months.

Lindner’s proposal faces resistance from the ecologist Greens, who oppose state subsidies for fossil fuels. This has exposed the first signs of tension in the governing coalition led by Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) along with the Greens and Lindner’s pro-business Free Democrats. There is an election this month in the state of Saarland, the first since a general election last year.

Greens and some SPD lawmakers oppose making a universal rebate, since high-earning car owners would get rebates while surging energy prices are squeezing low-income households, many of whom lack cars.

Some lawmakers say soaring energy prices would discourage driving and help Germany cut greenhouse gas emissions, which rose 4.5% last year.

Economists have also questioned the effectiveness of the proposal. An economist that advises the government likened a universal rebate to “throwing money out of the window.”

The Civey poll showed 52% believe Lindner’s petrol and diesel rebate makes no sense, while 39% back the idea.

Lindner, who owns a Porsche, at a news conference this week rejected views labeling his proposal a “fossil fuel subsidy.” A journalist asked Lindner if he would get a rebate when filling up his sports car.

“It is rather an instrument of intervention during a crisis,” said Lindner.

One prominent podcaster called Lindner’s proposal a “Putin-Soli,” short for “Putin solidarity tax.”

Putin Vows Russia Will Prevail

Russian President Vladimir Putin justified the military operation in Ukraine before a packed soccer stadium on Friday.

Speaking on a stage at the centre of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, Putin promised to tens of thousands of people waving Russian flags and chanting “Russia, Russia, Russia” that all of the Kremlin’s aims would be achieved.

“We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans,” Putin, 69, told the rally from a stage decked out with slogans such as “For a world without Nazism.”

Dressed in a turtleneck and coat, Putin said the soldiers fighting in what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine had demonstrated the unity of Russia.

“Shoulder to shoulder, they help each other, support each other and when needed they shield each other from bullets with their bodies like brothers. Such unity we have not had for a long time,” Putin said.

Putin says the operation in Ukraine was necessary because the United States was using the country to threaten Russia and Russia had to defend against the “genocide” of Russian-speaking people by Ukraine.

Before Putin spoke, Russia’s stirring national anthem, with the words “Russia is our sacred state” boomed out across the stands of the stadium used in the 2018 Soccer World Cup along with more modern pop hits such as “Made in the U.S.S.R.”.

Putin’s favorite Russian band, Lyube, sang patriotic songs about war, sacrifice and the honor of those fighting for Russia.

Pan-Slavist poetry by Fyodor Tyutchev, whose verses warned Russians that they would always be considered slaves of the Enlightenment by Europeans, was read out.

Putin quoted Russia’s 18th century naval commander, Fyodor Ushakov.

“He once said that these thunderstorms will bring Russia glory,” Putin said. “That is the way it was then, that is the way it is now and it will always be that way.”

Foreign Fighters In Ukraine

Sebastiaan Faber, Professor of Hispanic Studies, Oberlin College and Conservatory, and chair of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, an educational nonprofit based in New York, writes in The Conversation (Ukraine’s foreign fighters have little in common with those who signed up to fight in the Spanish Civil War, March 17, 2022)

When an aging Abe Osheroff recalled why, as a 21-year-old kid from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, he had volunteered to join the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War in 1936, he framed it as a personal, ethical decision.

“Some of my friends were already going over. Some of them had been killed and wounded. … Then I began to see pictures of what was going on. … Bombardments, civilians getting plastered all over the place. … I knew that if I didn’t go, I’d be ashamed all my life.”

Today, his words seem to echo those of individuals from around the world who are willing to risk their lives to help Ukraine in its desperate struggle against the Russian invasion.

“Sitting by and doing nothing? I had to do that when Afghanistan fell apart, and it weighed heavily on me. I had to act,” a U.S. veteran confessed to a New York Times reporter before he headed east.

Encouraged by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, volunteers are signing up – according to some reports, by the thousands – to join the ranks of what The Guardian has called “the most significant international brigade since the Spanish civil war.”

The Guardian is not the first to draw an analogy between 1930s Spain and today’s Ukraine. But tempting as it is to compare the two, doing so does more to obscure than to explain either of the conflicts.

In some instances, I see the analogy relying on distorted frames inherited from the Cold War; in others, it seems to be driven by blatant opportunism.

Surface-level similarities

The article said:

The Spanish Civil War broke out in the summer of 1936 after an attempted military coup, led by Gen. Francisco Franco, failed to overthrow the government of the Popular Front, a liberal-progressive coalition that had been democratically elected to lead the Second Spanish Republic. But while the Republican government managed to hold on to Spain’s largest cities and about half of the national territory, the right-wing rebels took control of the other half. They proceeded to wage a bloody war.

Republican forces faced a well-equipped rebel army that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy had supplied with soldiers, planes, weapons and tanks. By contrast, other democracies left the republic to fend for itself, with more than two dozen countries signing a nonintervention pact. The republic was also shut out of the international arms market, leaving only the Soviet Union and Mexico as sources of military support. After the republic’s defeat in 1939, a repressive military dictatorship headed by Franco ruled Spain for the next 36 years.

Osheroff was one of roughly 2,800 U.S. volunteers – and more than 35,000 from around the world – who flocked to Spain to help fight fascism. These foreign fighters were largely recruited through communist organizations, although many were not communists. What they had in common was their staunch opposition to everything fascism stood for. Upon arriving in Spain, the volunteers became fully integrated members of the Spanish Republican Army, where most of them served in one of five International Brigades.

As a scholar of the Spanish Civil War and its legacy, I can see why many people would be tempted to read the war in Ukraine through a Spanish lens.

Much as in civil war Spain, Ukrainian cities are being bombarded and civilians are dying, while those attacked are putting up an unexpectedly persistent defense against a much stronger enemy. As in Spain, the war is producing seemingly unending streams of refugees. And, as in Spain, the war seems to reflect an unusual degree of moral clarity – “It’s a conflict that has a clear good and bad side,” one U.S. veteran told The New York Times – while the fate of the world seems to hang in the balance.

It said:

Motivated by class solidarity

Yet historical analogies are never perfect, rarely useful and often misleading. For one thing, the geopolitics of today has little connection to the 1930s. In 1936 there was no NATO, only a weak and ineffectual League of Nations, and no threat of nuclear war.

Furthermore, the volunteers who joined the International Brigades in 1936 from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia had little in common with the combat veterans and Ukrainian nationalists who are signing up today, and whose politics, as NPR has reported, are vague and may skew to the right or far right. While the Russian invasion clearly violates Ukrainian sovereignty, those defending Ukraine represent ideologies that cover the entire political spectrum.

By contrast, very few of the volunteers in Spain had military training or experience. And if Osheroff knew that the Spanish war was also his to fight, it was, as he explained, because he’d grown up steeped in progressive politics.

He and his fellow brigaders were driven by the internationalist solidarity that’s the bedrock of the labor movement, but they also knew they had a personal stake in the struggle. Many of them were Jews and immigrants; they belonged to a generation that, as the historian Helen Graham has written, was resisting “attempts, by fascism, either alone or in coalition, violently to impose ethnic and class hierarchies both old and new across the whole continent.”

The analogy falters in other ways as well. The half-million Spanish refugees who fled Spain in the last months of the war were not welcomed with open arms. The French government put them in concentration camps, while most countries around the world closed their borders, with some notable exceptions, such as Mexico. During Germany’s occupation of France, as many as 15,000 of the Spanish Republicans interned in France were deported to Nazi camps, where some 5,000 died.

And yet in 1945, as Europe was liberated from fascism, the Allies decided to leave Franco alone and let him retain his grip on Spain. By the 1950s, Franco had become a U.S. ally in the Cold War.

The article said:

Distorting history

That same Cold War reshaped how the story of the Spanish Civil War was told. In the U.S., it became common to paint the anti-fascist volunteers as communist dupes. In 1984, U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously said the Americans in Spain had joined the wrong side.

Prompted by the Ukraine war, some of these Cold War clichés are slipping back into mainstream journalism. The New York Times reporter covering Zelenskyy’s international fighters, for instance, wrote that the adventure of the Americans in Spain, “often romanticized as a valiant prelude to the fight against the Nazis,” had “ended badly.” In reality, many of those who fought fascism in Spain went on to join the Allied armies in World War II. Others formed the backbone of the resistance movements in Nazi- and fascist-occupied territories.

Invoking the Spanish Civil War to frame the invasion of Ukraine as a clash between fascism and anti-fascism, moreover, plays into the Kremlin’s narrative, which seeks to portray the “special military operation” as an effort to “denazify” its western neighbor.

Ironically, one of the most opportunistic invocations of the historical analogy occurred in Spain itself. In early March 2022, when Spain’s progressive governing coalition decided to send arms to the Zelenskyy government, the country’s largest newspaper, El País, ran a supportive editorial stating: “Today, the weapons to defend Ukraine are the weapons that the Second Spanish Republic did not have 80 years ago.” In fact, the controversial decision to provide arms was dividing the governing coalition; the paper’s heartstrings-tugging invocation of the embattled Spanish Republic was an obvious attempt to end the debate.

If there is one way in which the Ukrainian analogy with Spain applies, it is the tragic way the country is being used as a proxy in a battle between the world’s great powers.

In July 1937, Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens, journalist Martha Gellhorn and novelist Ernest Hemingway visited the White House to screen “The Spanish Earth,” Ivens’ documentary about the war. After seeing the film, Gellhorn recalled in a 1938 letter that President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked, “Spain is a vicarious sacrifice for us all.”

The same terrible fate seems to be reserved for Ukraine and its people.

UK Very Disappointed With India’s Stance On Ukraine

A Reuters report said:

Britain is very disappointed with India’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said on Thursday ahead of the conclusion of a second round of trade talks.

Earlier this week two Indian officials also said the country may take up a Russian offer to buy crude oil and other commodities at a discount.

Britain launched talks over a free trade agreement with India in January, and the second round of negotiations is due to finish on Friday. Both sides have said they aim to conclude discussions this year.

Asked if India’s stance towards Russia would impact those trade talks, Trevelyan said that she hoped India would shift its stance.

“We are very disappointed, but we continue to work with Indian partners and hope that their views will change,” she told reporters, adding that the talks could yield benefit for both sides.

“India is an incredibly important trading partner for the UK.”

Venezuela Supports Russia

Moscow can expect support from Caracas in the environment od sanctions imposed on Russia, Venezuela’s Minister of Tourism Ali Padron told TASS on Thursday during his visit to Moscow.

“We are living for many years in conditions of sanctions, economic blockade, unilateral restrictions from the side of the US and certain other governments. All these difficulties can be overcome if there is unity in the nation. Yes, sanctions are damaging but these are obstacles making us stronger,” the Minister said.

Venezuelan authorities plan to increase the number of direct scheduled flights to Russia, Padron noted. “We now have a flight from Moscow to Caracas. We are working on Conviasa [the Venezuelan air carrier] to make flights from Moscow to Porlamar also,” he added.

Britain Sends Air-Defense System To Guard Polish Skies

A British air-defense system that has only been in service for a few months is being deployed to Poland to bolster that country’s capabilities, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced during a visit to Warsaw March 17.

The move is part of a wider upgrade of NATO assets in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, which has seen personnel and equipment deployed to the region to deter possible Russian aggression.

“The deployment of Sky Sabre medium-range, anti-air system to Poland with 100 personnel will help protect her airspace from any further aggression from Russia,” Wallace said following a meeting with his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Blaszczak.

The British have yet to announce when they expect to field the system, but it is thought likely the deployment will not last longer than six months.

Earlier this month the British revealed they had agreed in principle to provide StarStreak short-range air defense missiles to the Ukraine, Poland’s neighbor to the east.

German Supply To Slovakia

Meanwhile, the German defense ministry announced Thursday it would supply Poland’s southern neighbor Slovakia with Patriot air-defense capabilities.

Officials in Berlin declined to provide details, citing security concerns. Slovakia shares a border with Ukraine measuring roughly 60 miles north to south.

The commitment follows through on a pledge by Germany to also deploy a company-strong Army formation for an “enhanced vigilance activity battle group” to Slovakia. The unit is expected to grow to a full battle group size by April.

China Urges U.S. Answer On Ukraine Biolabs

Russia’s revelations of documents pertaining to U.S.-backed biological laboratories in Ukraine deserve the world’s attention, and the parties involved need to address those concerns, China’s permanent representative to the UN told the Security Council on Friday.

Having been a victim of chemical and biological weapons, China believes that “any information and leads on biological military activities should trigger heightened concern and attention of the international community to avoid irreparable harm,” Ambassador Zhang Jun said.

“Russia has further revealed the newly discovered relevant documents. The party concerned should respond to questions, and offer timely and comprehensive clarifications to remove the doubts of the international community,” Zhang added.

Friday’s UNSC briefing was called by Russia, which shared the evidence obtained from laboratories across Ukraine. Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, argued that if the dangerous pathogens the laboratories were working on had leaked, the impact on Europe would be “difficult to imagine” and could have been worse than the Covid-19 pandemic, in comparison.

According to a briefing by the Russian military on Thursday, the Pentagon-funded labs were working on “biological weapons components,” and may have been connected to suspicious outbreaks of dirofilariasis, tuberculosis and avian flu over the past several years.

If the pathogens had gotten out of the labs, Nebenzia told the UN Security Council, “the scale of impact, including among the population of European countries, in this case is even difficult to imagine. It is possible that the coronavirus epidemic could pale [in comparison] to this.”

Washington has for years dismissed as “disinformation” Russian claims of biolabs in Ukraine, and said the U.S. was only funding peaceful medical research there. Earlier this month, however, senior State Department official Victoria Nuland admitted that the U.S. was concerned about Russia potentially taking control of the labs and their contents.

Meanwhile, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said that the world organization has neither the authority nor the ability to verify the data provided by Russia on the alleged US military biological program in Ukraine.

Kremlin Reacts To Biden’s Insults Directed At Putin

The Kremlin sees recent aggressive statements made by US President Joe Biden about his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as “a personal insult” caused by Biden’s fatigue and irritability. It has refused to respond to the rhetoric.

“We do hear statements that are in fact personal insults to President Putin. These statements are actually coming from the president of the United States of America on a daily basis,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in response to a journalist’s question on Friday.

“Considering such irritability from Mr. Biden, his fatigue, sometimes forgetfulness, which leads to aggressive statements, we will not give sharp assessments so as not to cause more aggression,” he concluded. Peskov added that being a thoughtful and wise leader, Vladimir Putin never responds to personal insults.

On Thursday, speaking at the annual lunch dedicated to Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day, President Biden referred to the Russian head of state as a “murderous dictator” and “a pure thug,” accusing him of waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine. Just a day earlier, the American leader called President Putin a “war criminal” in response to a journalist’s question.

President Biden has recently allocated an additional sum of $800 million in security assistance to Kiev. The money will allow the Ukrainians to buy hundreds of America’s so-called Switchblade kamikaze drones and Stinger anti-aircraft systems.


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