Biden seeks new sanctions, help for Ukraine
US President Joe Biden is in Brussels for an emergency meeting of NATO and a G7 summit – a high-stakes, four-day visit aimed at bolstering Western support for Ukraine as Russia warned NATO against sending peacekeepers there. With Europe facing its most precarious future since World War II, Biden will meet with key allies in Brussels and Warsaw as the leaders try to prevent Russia’s war on Ukraine from spiralling into an even greater catastrophe. NATO leaders are expected to approve major increases in the alliance’s forces in eastern Europe. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said four new battlegroups will be sent to Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
Belarus could ‘soon’ join war – NATO
The US and NATO believe that Belarus could “soon” join Russia in its war against Ukraine, US and NATO officials said, and that the country is already taking steps to do so. A Belarusian opposition source said that Belarusian combat units are ready to go into Ukraine as soon as in the next few days, with thousands of forces prepared to deploy. A senior NATO intelligence official said separately that the alliance assesses the Belarusian government “is preparing the environment to justify a Belarusian offensive against Ukraine”.
Zelensky slams UN, urges reform in address to Japan
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Japan’s parliament Wednesday that the United Nations had failed over the conflict in his country and reforms were needed, calling for more pressure on Russia. The international body has been hamstrung because Russia is a permanent member of its Security Council and has effectively blocked condemnation or action over its invasion of Ukraine. Zelensky has waged an information war on the capitals of the Western world, addressing 10 parliaments in two weeks, receiving standing ovations everywhere. In Paris on Wednesday he invoked the national motto of “liberté, égalité, fraternité”. In Japan, he raised the spectre of nuclear disaster. He has also been invited to address today’s NATO summit. Zelensky also spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who he said provided Ukraine “assurances of his support” ahead of the summit.
…And calls for anti-Russia rallies worldwide
Meanwhile, in a speech to mark one month since the Russian invasion of his country began, Zelensky has called on people around the world to publicly show their support for Ukraine. Speaking in English in a video address, he appealed for rallies to be held in the cause of peace. He said the world needed to stop Russia’s “crude use of force”.
Security Council defeats Russia resolution
The UN Security Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly defeated a Russian resolution that acknowledged Ukraine’s growing humanitarian needs – but didn’t mention the Russian invasion that caused the escalating crisis which has left millions of Ukrainians in desperate need of food, water and shelter. Russia and China were the only members to vote in favour, while the remaining 13 members abstained. A rival humanitarian resolution drafted by Ukraine is due to be voted on in the General Assembly in the coming days.
Moscow expels American diplomats…
The Russian Foreign Ministry has delivered to the US embassy in Moscow a list of American diplomats who have been declared unwelcome and will be expelled. According to Tass, the ministry said “any hostile action by the United States against Russia will have a resolute and appropriate response”.
… and Poland expels Russians
Poland said it had expelled 45 Russian diplomats for engaging in espionage in the EU country. Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski made the announcement on Twitter: “Poland has expelled 45 Russian spies pretending to be diplomats,” he wrote. “We are dismantling the Russian special services network in our country.” Russia confirmed the expulsions but dismissed Polish accusations as baseless.
In other developments;
- Russian forces have been accused of taking hostage the people of the besieged Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, as local officials imposed drinking water rationing on trapped civilians. About 150,000 people are stuck in the northern city with little hope of aid after Russia cut them off from the capital, Kyiv.
- Ukraine is increasing pressure on Russian forces north-east of Kyiv while carrying out successful counterattacks against Russian positions in towns on the outskirts of the capital.
- Ukrainian troops are counter-attacking Russian forces in some areas of the country, with reports that they have gained ground to the west of the capital, Kyiv.
- Almost all of the town of Irpin, which has seen fierce fighting in recent weeks, is back in Ukrainian hands, says Kyiv’s mayor.
- Russian forces are continuing to bombard the southern port city of Mariupol, where residents have run out of water and food and an estimated 90% of the city’s buildings have been damaged or destroyed.
- NATO estimates between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of fighting in Ukraine, where the country’s defenders have put up stiffer-than-expected resistance and denied Moscow the lightning victory it hoped for.
- The first US shipment of some $800 million in weapons pledged for Ukraine will arrive there in the next few days, US defence officials say.
- The US formally accused Russia of war crimes, formalising the process of investigating Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
- The humanitarian crisis unleashed so far by Russia’s month-long war in Ukraine is just the tip of the iceberg, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday. The UN health agency also called for a stop to attacks on health care facilities, saying it has verified at least 64 such strikes.
- Putin has said Russia plans to demand payment in roubles for its gas sales to “unfriendly” countries. The announcement sent European futures soaring over concerns the switch would exacerbate a looming energy crisis by jamming up deals that run to hundreds of millions of dollars every day.
- Russian climate envoy Anatoly Chubais has stepped down and left the country in protest against Putin’s war in Ukraine. He is the highest-level official to break with the Kremlin over the invasion.
- Oksana Baulina, a Russian opposition activist and journalist, who fled the country during a Putin-led crackdown has been killed by shelling while reporting in Ukraine’s capital city. She had been filming the damage from a shell attack in Kyiv’s Podil district when she and other civilians were hit by fresh rocket fire on Wednesday.
Tributes pour in to Madeleine Albright
Tributes poured in Wednesday from diplomatic players around the world remembering Madeleine Albright, the first female US secretary of state and one of the most influential stateswomen of her generation, serving under President Clinton from 1997 to 2001. A champion of Narto expansion, she was 84. President Biden and former presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama hailed her historic service.
Football: World Cup European play-off semi-finals tonight
The European play-off semi-finals for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 get underway tonight. A win in the semis will keep teams in the hunt for one of three play-off tickets and the opportunity to join the other European nations who have already qualified for the world’s most prestigious tournament, namely Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, Switzerland, England and the Netherlands. Here is a look at the crucial upcoming ties. Tonight’s matches (all start at 20.45) are: Wales-Austria, Sweden-Czech Republic, Italy-North Macedonia and Portugal-Turkey. Russia-Poland has been cancelled and Scotland-Ukraine has been postponed.