Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky on Saturday urged Western powers to unrestrictedly defend his country against a possible invasion by Russia, which has tested nuclear-capable missiles near the border.
Zelenski urged at a forum on security issues in Munich (Germany) to abandon Russia’s “appeasement” strategy. “Everyone must understand that it is not charitable contributions that Ukraine is asking for. It is your contribution to the security of Europe and the world, of which Ukraine has been the shield for eight years”, a- he pointed out.
The president was referring to the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country and Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE ) documented more than 1,500 ceasefire violations. the fire in this region in 24 hours from Thursday afternoon, a record so far this year.
According to the Ukrainian army, two soldiers were killed this Saturday in a bombardment by separatists. These would be the first military casualties for more than a month, in a conflict that has claimed more than 14,000 lives since its outbreak.
“Clear” timetable for joining NATO
Speaking in Munich, Zelensky called for a “clear and achievable” timetable for Ukraine’s membership of NATO, a military alliance between the United States and major European powers. This entry would represent a red line for Russia, which precisely demands guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine and that it will not be reinforced on its eastern flank.
Zelensky offered to meet Putin to clarify his intentions. “I don’t know what the Russian president wants, so I suggest we meet,” he said. According to the French presidency, the Ukrainian leader confided to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, that he would not “respond” to Russian “provocations” in eastern Ukraine and that he remained ready to “dialogue” with Moscow.
US President Joe Biden said on Friday he was “convinced” that Putin has decided to invade Ukraine in the coming days and that the incidents in the east of the country seek to create a “false justification” for issuing the order. . Its vice-president, Kamala Harris, warned on Saturday that if Russia attacked Ukraine, NATO forces in Eastern Europe would be reinforced and Western countries would impose “hard and fast” economic sanctions against Moscow.
Putin downplayed threats of economic retaliation on Friday. “Sanctions will be passed no matter what. Whether there is a reason or not, they will find one because their goal is to stop Russia’s development,” he said. Clashes and the evacuation of civilians from eastern Ukraine have raised fears that Putin may order the feared invasion.
“All signs indicate that Russia is planning an all-out attack on Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told German ARD television in Munich on Saturday. NATO said it was moving its staff from Kiev to Lviv, in the west of the country, or to Brussels, where it has its headquarters, as a “security” measure.
Germany on Saturday urged its citizens to leave Ukraine “urgently”. France has also called on its people to leave this country.
Strategic Missile Tests
Putin has overseen “strategic” drills firing “hypersonic” missiles, new weapons the Kremlin chief recently called “invincible” and capable of carrying a nuclear payload. “The objectives planned during the exercises of the strategic deterrent forces were fully achieved. All the missiles hit the established targets,” the Russian presidency said in a statement.
Russian state television showed Putin with his Belarusian counterpart and ally Alexander Lukashenko, listening in a crisis room to reports from their generals. Washington estimates that Russia has 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders and territory, including separatist rebel forces in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Some 30,000 Russian soldiers are also taking part in joint exercises in Belarus. Moscow says they will return to their barracks when the drills end on Sunday, but intelligence thinks they could be involved in an invasion of Ukraine.
Russia announced several troop withdrawals this week and denounced Western “hysteria” over the risk of invasion, but at the same time raised its voice to demand guarantees that Ukraine will not become a member of the NATO and that the forces of the alliance will fall back to their positions decades ago.
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