The war in Ukraine continues to dominate global geopolitics this week, with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion already here.
Biden makes surprise visit to Ukraine for first time since full-scale war began
President Joe Biden slipped into Kyiv on Monday for the first time since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, demonstrating in dramatic personal fashion his commitment to the country and its struggle as the war enters an uncertain new phase.
The highly secretive visit – which took place as air raid sirens could be heard ringing out around Kyiv while Biden walked alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky around the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral – came at a critical moment in the 12-month conflict, with Russia preparing for an expected spring offensive and Ukraine hoping to soon retake territory.
Biden announced a half-billion dollars in new assistance, saying the package would include more military equipment, such as artillery ammunition, more javelins and Howitzers. And he said new sanctions would be imposed on Moscow later this week.
“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said.
The United States and other Western nations have been rushing arms, tanks and ammunition to Ukraine in the hopes of changing the trajectory of the war. By visiting in person, Biden is offering a singular image of American support for Zelensky, who has spent the past year attempting to rally the world behind his nation and appealing for greater levels of assistance.
Biden arrived in Kyiv at 8 a.m. local time after a lengthy journey from Washington and arrived to the Mariinsky Palace half-an-hour later. He departed Kyiv in the early afternoon.
Russia tested intercontinental ballistic missile before Biden trip, officials say
Russia notified the US it was going to test an intercontinental ballistic missile before President Joe Biden’s trip to Ukraine earlier this week, according to an administration official and a US official.
The administration official said such tests are routine and the Russians used the notification process in the New Start Treaty, a nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the US, to let the US know, though Russia announced Tuesday that it was suspending its participation in the pact.
This official also said the test did not pose a risk to the United States and that the Biden administration did not view the test as an anomaly or an escalation.
CNN was first to report the test occurred around the time of the president’s visit.
Kremlin slams the West’s reaction to nuclear arms treaty suspension
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that Russia was suspending its participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the US and threatened to resume nuclear tests as he accused the West of turning the war in Ukraine into a global conflict.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken later dubbed the decision “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.
The Kremlin said Wednesday that the West’s initial reaction to Russia’s suspension of the New Start nuclear arms treaty did not bode well for a resumption of talks to re-open the pact.
We see the first reaction. It is quite consolidated among the representatives of the collective West. This reaction, of course, does not give us any reason to hope for any readiness for dialogue or negotiations,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s press secretary, told reporters Wednesday.
Peskov said, however, that “circumstances are changing, and here it is very important for Russia to do everything to ensure its own security, including in matters of strategic stability and arms control. And to maintain a patient approach while waiting for our opponents to mature for a normal dialogue.”
Asked under what conditions Russia would be ready to return to the implementation of the treaty, Peskov said “everything will depend on the position of the West. President Putin has clearly outlined what concerns us.”
“We see NATO’s involvement in the conflict, we see, as the President said, that NATO is trying to turn this local conflict into a global one. And on the other hand, NATO maintains its openly hostile position towards Russia. Not only in words, but also in deeds, encroaching on our security. We can’t not react to this,” he said, adding that “as soon as there is a willingness to take into account our concerns, then the situation will change.”
Putin looks to deepen ties with China as he meets top diplomat
Russian President Vladimir Putin looked to deepen ties with China Wednesday as he met one of Beijing’s top diplomats in Moscow.
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi visited the Russian capital and held talks with his Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as Putin himself, signaling the value the Kremlin has placed on Moscow’s relationship with Beijing, one of the few powerful allies Russia has left in the global community following its invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said that relations between Beijing and Moscow could not be influenced by other countries and that China wished to deepen its strategic cooperation with Russia, in remarks broadcast on Russian state TV and reported by Reuters.
Meanwhile, Putin said he was looking forward to a visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping and to deepening the partnership between the two countries, Reuters added. President Xi is expected to visit Russia in spring.
Russian forces fighting in center of Bakhmut, official claims
Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces is moving toward the center of Bakhmut, according to a Russian official and advisor to the acting head of the pro-Russian “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine.
Jan Gagin, an advisor to Denis Pushilin, told the Rossiya-1 TV channel on Wednesday that fighting in Bakhmut, a city that Russia calls “Artemovsk” had progressed to the point where Ukraine’s surrender was just a matter of time.
“The initiative is now in the hands of our fighters, our troops have long entered from the northern side of Artemovsk. Now they are already fighting almost in the center of the city,” Gagin said in comments reported by news agency Ria Novosti.
Bakhmut has been fought over for months, with military analysts conceding that Russian forces have made gains in and around the area in recent weeks, albeit at a large cost to its forces, with hundreds of Russian soldiers believed to be dying every day.
Ukraine has downplayed Russian advances in Donetsk and said Wednesday that its forces had repelled an attack on a stronghold near Bakhmut.
Russia sees the capture of Bakhmut as a key goal as it looks to cut Ukrainian supply lines and transport hubs, and as it looks to seize Donetsk, Luhansk and the entire Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
Compiled by Ana Dumbadze