Moscow raises risk of nuclear war as US and allies promise more weapons to Ukraine
- Russia warns US against arming Ukraine
- US considering ammunition for howitzers, tanks and grenade launchers
- UK to send ambulances, fire engines and medical supplies
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany/KYIV, April 26 (Reuters) – Russia has accused NATO of engaging in a proxy battle that created a serious risk of nuclear war as Washington summoned its allies on Tuesday to a German air base to promise the heavy weapons Ukraine needs. to achieve victory.
As Russian forces have been pushed back from kyiv and are now attempting a further advance into eastern Ukraine, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomed officials from more than 40 countries to Ramstein, the headquarters of American air power in Europe.
“As we see this morning, nations around the world are united in their resolve to support Ukraine in its fight against Imperial Russian aggression,” Austin said. “Ukraine clearly believes they can win, just like everyone here.”
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
In a marked escalation of Russian rhetoric, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked on state television about the prospect of World War III and whether the current situation compares to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that nearly provoked a nuclear war.
“The risks are now considerable,” Lavrov said, according to the ministry’s interview transcript.
“The danger is serious, real. And we should not underestimate it,” Lavrov said. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”
US officials have this week focused on helping kyiv defend itself over talk of a Ukrainian victory that would deal a blow to Russia’s ability to threaten its neighbors in the future.
Austin, who traveled to Kyiv on Sunday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said on Monday: “We want to see Russia weakened to the point where they can’t do the kinds of things they did in invading Ukraine.”
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, told reporters that the next few weeks in Ukraine would be “very, very critical”.
“They need ongoing support to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really what this conference is about.”
The aim would be to coordinate aid which includes heavy weapons such as howitzer artillery, as well as killer drones and ammunition, Gen Milley said.
kyiv and its allies played down Lavrov’s remarks about nuclear war.
Russia had lost its “last hope to dissuade the world from supporting Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted after Lavrov’s interview. “It only means that Moscow feels defeat.”
Britain’s Armed Forces Secretary James Heappey called Lavrov’s remarks an example of the “bravado” that had become the Russian foreign minister’s “trademark”.
“I don’t think there is an imminent threat of escalation at the moment,” Heappey told BBC Television.
The US State Department on Monday approved the potential sale of $165 million in ammunition to Ukraine. The Pentagon said the package could include ammunition for howitzers, tanks and grenade launchers. Read more
Moscow’s ambassador to Washington has told the United States to stop deliveries, warning that Western weapons are fueling the conflict. Read more
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was due to travel to Moscow on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Lavrov in the most high-profile peacekeeping mission since the start of the war, although Western countries have said they had little hope of a breakthrough.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two months ago left thousands dead or injured, reduced cities to rubble and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.
Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West call this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.
Russia has yet to capture any of the largest cities in Ukraine. Its huge invasion force was forced to withdraw from the outskirts of kyiv in the face of fierce resistance last month. But he has since announced new war aims to focus primarily on the east, and sent more troops there for an assault on two provinces where he has backed a separatist revolt.
“It is obvious that every day – and especially today, when the third month of our resistance has begun – everyone in Ukraine is concerned about peace, about an end to all this,” the president said on Monday. Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“There is no simple answer to this at the moment.”
The Ukrainian General Staff said on Tuesday that the Russian offensive continued in the eastern region of Kharkiv, with Russian forces attempting to advance towards a village called Zavody.
Russia is likely trying to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the east of the country, the British military said in an update on Tuesday. Read more
Reports say the town of Kreminna has fallen, with heavy fighting in the southern town of Izyum, as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the UK Ministry of Defense said on Twitter.
Russian forces have continued their shelling and shelling of the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol where fighters are entrenched in a city reduced to rubble by the Russian siege, Ukrainian presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovych said.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Additional reporting by Reuters reporters; Written by Peter Graff; Editing by Angus MacSwan
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.