Russian official warns West of destruction for weaponizing Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament warned on Sunday that countries supplying Ukraine with more powerful weapons risk their own destruction, a message that followed new pledges of armored vehicles, air defense systems and other equipment, but not the battle tanks Kiev wanted.

Ukraine supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine on Friday at a rally at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, though the new pledges were overshadowed by failure to agree to Ukraine’s urgent request for German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said governments giving more powerful weapons to Ukraine could create a “global tragedy that would destroy their countries”.

“Delivery of offensive weapons to the Kiev regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” he said. “If Washington and NATO provide weapons that could be used to capture peaceful cities and attempt to seize our territory, as they threaten to do, it would lead to retaliation with more powerful weapons.”

Germany is one of the main arms donors to Ukraine and has ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stockpiles in preparation for a possible green light. Nevertheless, the government in Berlin has taken caution every step of the way in increasing its commitments to Ukraine, a hesitation seen as rooted in its history and political culture.

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said on Sunday that he would not rule out Leclerc main battle tanks being sent to Ukraine and had asked his defense minister to “work” on the idea.

Macron spoke to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a press conference in Paris as their countries commemorate the 60th anniversary of their friendship treaty after World War II. In a joint statement, France and Germany committed to their “unwavering support” for Ukraine.

France will make its refueling decision based on three criteria, Macron said: that sharing equipment does not lead to an escalation of the conflict, that it would provide efficient and workable assistance when training time is taken into account, and that it would not weaken France’s own army.

Scholz did not respond to questions about the Leopard 2 tanks on Sunday, but stressed that his country has already made significant military contributions to Ukraine.

“The US is doing a lot, Germany is also doing a lot,” he said. “We have continuously expanded our supplies with highly effective weapons that are already available today. And we have always coordinated all these decisions closely with our key allies and friends.”

Germany’s caution has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel particularly threatened by Russia’s renewed aggression.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that if Germany does not agree to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine, his country is willing to build a “smaller coalition” of countries that would send theirs anyway.

“Almost a year has passed since the outbreak of war,” Morawiecki said in an interview with the Polish state news agency PAP published on Sunday. “Evidence of the Russian military’s war crimes can be seen on television and on YouTube. What else does Germany need to open its eyes and start acting in accordance with the potential of the German state?”

In Washington, two senior lawmakers on Sunday urged the US to send some of its Abrams tanks to Ukraine to overcome Germany’s reluctance to share its own, more capable tanks.

“If we announced that we were giving an Abrams tank, just one, it would unleash the flood of tanks from Germany,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to ABC’s “This Week on Sunday.” “What I hear is that Germany is waiting for us to take the lead.”

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke out in favor of sending Abrams through the US.

“If it required us to send some Abrams tanks to get the Leopard tanks out of Germany, Poland or other allies, I would support that,” Coons said.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said the US-led meeting at the air base in Germany “left no doubt that our enemies will try to wear us down or rather destroy us,” adding that “they have enough weapons” to reach the target.

Medvedev, a former Russian president, warned on his messaging app channel that “in the event of a protracted conflict” Russia could try to form a military alliance with “the nations fed up with the Americans and a pack of their castrated dogs. ”

Ukraine is asking for more weapons as it expects Russian forces to launch a new offensive in the spring.

Oleksii Danilov, the secretary of the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, warned that Russia could try to intensify its attacks in the south and east and cut the supply channels of Western weapons, while capturing Kiev “remains the main dream” in the plans of President Vladimir Putin. “fantasies,” he said.

In a column published by the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda. he described the Kremlin’s goal in the conflict as a “total and absolute genocide, a total war of annihilation”

Among those calling for more guns for Ukraine was former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday. Johnson, who was photographed in the Kiev region town of Borodyanka, said he traveled to Ukraine at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Now is the time to double down and give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to get the job done. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world,” Johnson said in a statement.

The past week in particular has been tragic for Ukraine, even by the standards of a brutal war that has lasted almost a year, which has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions more, and devastated Ukrainian cities.

A barrage of Russian missiles hit an apartment complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on January 14, killing at least 45 civilians. A government helicopter crashed into a building housing a kindergarten in a Kiev suburb on Wednesday. Ukraine’s interior minister, other officials and a child on the ground were among the 14 killed.

Zelensky vowed on Sunday that Ukraine would eventually prevail in the war.

“We are united because we are strong. We are strong because we are united,” the Ukrainian leader said in a video address to mark Ukraine’s Unity Day, which commemorates the unification of eastern and western Ukraine in 1919.

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Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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