Saturday, April 13News That Matters

China pledged a deeper partnership with Russia.

China pledged a deeper partnership with Russia on Wednesday while US President Joe Biden reaffirmed security assurances for NATO’s “frontline” eastern members, highlighting global tensions as the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches.
However, a day after President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was suspending its participation in a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Washington, his deputy foreign minister sought to calm nerves, saying the step did not make nuclear war more likely.
Within Ukraine, schools took their classes online for the rest of the week for fear of an upsurge in Russian missile attacks a year on from Moscow’s Feb. 24 all-out assault, which failed to topple the government and has long been bogged down.
Wang Yi, the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Russia since the countries announced a “no limits” partnership weeks before the invasion, told Putin that Beijing was ready to enhance ties.
A time of crisis called for Russia and China “to continuously deepen our comprehensive strategic partnership”, Beijing’s top diplomat said.
Putin said he was looking forward to a visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping and a deeper partnership.
Xi is expected to make a “peace speech” on Friday, but Kyiv says there can be no talk of peace while Russian troops are in Ukraine.
“This unprovoked and criminal Russian war against Ukraine, Europe and the democratic world must end with the cleansing of the entire Ukrainian land from Russian occupation and solid guarantees of the long-term security for our state, the whole of Europe and the entire world,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia is due to begin military exercises with China in South Africa on Friday and has sent a frigate equipped with new-generation hypersonic cruise missiles. A Russian officer said on Wednesday Russia would fire artillery, but not the missiles, whose speed makes them difficult to shoot down.
Russian aggression in Ukraine has changed the security situation in Europe, Polish President Andrzej Duda told the Warsaw meeting of nine eastern NATO members with Biden, who said Washington was committed to defending every inch of the alliance’s territory.
“You are the front line of our collective defence,” Biden told the summit of countries which joined the Western military alliance after being aligned with Moscow during the Cold War.
Most now count among the strongest supporters of military aid to Ukraine and in a joint declaration called for NATO’s enhanced presence on its eastern flank.
Nuclear treaty suspended
Putin has responded to setbacks in Ukraine with veiled threats to use nuclear weapons and suspended the nuclear arms control treaty on Tuesday, accusing Washington of turning the war into a global conflict by arming Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign and defence ministries said later Moscow would still continue abiding by the restrictions outlined in the pact on the number of nuclear warheads it could have deployed and the number of nuclear missile carriers. Russia’s lower house of parliament rubber-stamped the move Wednesday.
Tension over Ukraine had already halted mutual inspections of nuclear arsenals envisaged by the treaty, but Biden said that by suspending the treaty, Putin had “made a mistake”.
He underlined his support for Kyiv in a surprise visit to war-torn Ukraine on Monday and then rallied NATO allies in Poland, saying the invasion had tested the world but Washington and its allies had shown they would defend democracy.
He rejected Russia’s assertion that the West was seeking to control or destroy Russia, and accused Moscow of crimes against humanity such as targeting civilians and rape. Russia denies committing war crimes or deliberately attacking civilians.
NATO allies and other supporters have sent Ukraine tens of billions of dollars worth of arms and ammunition. Since the new year, they have promised modern battle tanks, though they have yet to offer the Western fighter jets sought by Kyiv.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned Beijing against supplying weapons to Moscow, prompting anger from China.
Fighting
Russia suffered three major battlefield setbacks in Ukraine last year but still controls nearly a fifth of the country. It has launched a massive offensive in recent weeks in the east, so far making only marginal gains despite some of the heaviest losses of the war.
Ukraine’s military said Bakhmut city, the focus of Russian advances in the eastern region of Donetsk, came under shelling, along with 20 other settlements in the area.
The governor of the neighbouring Luhansk region said Ukraine had repelled intense Russian attacks around the town of Kreminna further north, destroying several of their tanks.
“The breakthrough failed, the situation stabilized,” Serhiy Haidai said on Ukrainian television.
Two civilians were killed in Russian shelling of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine on Wednesday, and two were wounded in a missile strike on the northeastern city of Kharkiv, regional officials said.
The biggest land war in Europe since World War Two has displaced millions left cities, towns and villages in ruins and disrupting the global economy. The UN rights office has recorded more than 8,000 civilians killed, a figure it describes as the “tip of the iceberg”.
Russia said on Wednesday it would need to see a change in NATO’s stance and a willingness for dialogue before it would consider returning to its last remaining nuclear treaty with the United States.
The lower house of the Russian parliament voted quickly in favour of suspending Moscow’s participation in the New START treaty, rubber-stamping a decision that President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday when he accused the West of trying to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia in Ukraine.
The 2010 treaty limits each country’s deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550. Security analysts say its potential collapse could unleash a new arms race at a perilous moment when Putin is increasingly portraying the Ukraine war he launched one year ago as a direct confrontation with the West.
Asked in what circumstances Russia would return to the deal, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Everything will depend on the position of the West… When there’s a willingness to take into account our concerns, then the situation will change.”
Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying: “We will, of course, be closely monitoring the further actions of the United States and its allies, including with a view to taking further countermeasures, if necessary.”
Responding to a CNN report that Russia had unsuccessfully tested its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this week – a weapon capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads – Interfax quoted Ryabkov as saying: “You cannot trust everything that appears in the media, especially if the source is CNN.”
Stalled inspections
The suspended treaty gives each side the right to inspect the other’s sites – through visits had been halted since 2020 because of COVID and the Ukraine war – and obliges the parties to provide detailed notifications on their respective deployments.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that the Russian move was “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it made the world more dangerous and urged Putin to reconsider.
Russia said, however, it would continue to abide by the limits on the number of warheads it can deploy and stood open to reversing its decision.
Before passing the vote in Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, speaker Vyacheslav Volodin blamed the United States for the breakdown.
“By ceasing to comply with its obligations and rejecting our country’s proposals on global security issues, the United States destroyed the architecture of international stability,” Volodin said in a statement.
Russia is now demanding that British and French nuclear weapons targeted against Russia should be included in the arms control framework, something analysts say is a non-starter for Washington after more than half a century of bilateral nuclear treaties with Moscow.
“We will obviously pay special attention to what line and what decisions London and Paris are taking, which can no longer, even hypothetically, be considered outside of the Russian-US dialogue on nuclear arms control,” the TASS news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying.
He said there was currently no direct dialogue between Moscow and Washington on nuclear issues and it was unknown whether it would resume.

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