Ukraine called on China on Saturday to join the West in condemning “Russian barbarism”, as Moscow claimed it had struck a Ukrainian arms depot with hypersonic missiles in what would be the first use in combat of the next-generation weapons.
That attack, not far from the country’s western Romanian border, came as Russia said its troops had broken through Ukrainian defences to enter the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, a scene of mounting desperation.
With the invasion in its fourth week, Kyiv’s embattled leader Volodymyr Zelensky pressed for “meaningful” talks to halt fighting that has forced at least 3.3 million Ukrainians to flee their country.
The plea for China to condemn the invasion came from a top Zelensky advisor, Mikhailo Podolyak.
China could play an important role in global security, he said on Twitter, “if it makes a right decision to support the civilised countries’ coalition and condemn Russian barbarism.”
Russia’s claim Saturday to have unleashed its new hypersonic Kinzhal missile would mark a dramatic new escalation of its campaign to force Ukraine to abandon hopes of closer ties with the West.
Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat told AFP that the arms depot in the western village of Deliatyn had indeed been hit but “we have no information of the type of missile”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who unveiled the Kinzhal missile in 2018, has termed it “an ideal weapon” that flies at 10 times the speed of sound, making it extremely difficult for missile defenses to intercept.
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- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened up diplomatic and commercial opportunities for gas exporter Qatar to expand energy sales to the West and bolster its alliance with Washington amid U.S. tensions with other Gulf Arab states.
- Qatar has sought a largely neutral stance on the conflict, but while trying to avoid choosing sides, it has signalled through its response that it can offer significant political and economic assistance to Western partners.
- With many European energy importers looking urgently for ways to ease their heavy dependence on Russia, Qatar has suggested it could direct more gas in future to Europe.
- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in contrast have resisted Western calls for a rapid rise in oil output to contain a jump in crude prices caused by the conflict in Ukraine.
- One of Europe’s biggest iron and steel works, Azovstal, has been badly damaged as Russian forces lay siege to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, officials said Sunday.
- “One of the biggest metallurgic plants in #Europe destroyed. The economic losses for #Ukraine are huge. The environment is devastated,” tweeted Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko.
- Vasylenko posted a video of explosions on an industrial site, with thick columns of grey and black smoke rising from the buildings.
- China stands on the right side of history over the Ukraine crisis as time will tell, and its position is in line with the wishes of most countries, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
- “China will never accept any external coercion or pressure, and opposes any unfounded accusations and suspicious against China,” Wang told reporters on Saturday evening, according to a statement published by his ministry on Sunday.
- Wang’s comments came after U.S. President Joe Biden warned his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Friday of “consequences” if Beijing gave material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukraine war has major economic consequences for energy, food, inflation and poverty, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The EBRD’s chief economist, Beata Javorcik, spoke to AFP about the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from where more than three million refugees have fled so far.
Global lenders are giving billions for Ukraine, including a 2.0-billion-euro ($2.2 billion) “resilience package” from the London-based EBRD, but there is currently no end in sight to the conflict.
The crisis has sent commodity prices rocketing on supply fears, fuelling inflation that is already at multi-decade highs.
- Australia expanded its sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine Sunday, immediately banning all exports of alumina and bauxite while pledging more weapons and humanitarian assistance.
- The export ban aims to impact aluminium production in Russia, which relies on Australia for 20 percent of its alumina.
- It comes just days after Canberra sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who owns a stake in Queensland Alumina Limited — a joint venture between Russian aluminium company Rusal and mining giant Rio Tinto, which has vowed to sever all business ties with Russia.
- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was working with partners to “put the maximum cost, the maximum pressure on the Putin regime to withdraw from Ukraine”.
- Morrison said Australia had levelled 476 sanctions against Russian individuals and institutions since the invasion began.
- He also announced Australia would donate 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal to Ukraine, following a request from the besieged nation.
- Russian air raids on Mykolaiv were taking place in quick succession Saturday, a regional official said, a day after a deadly strike on a military barracks in the southern Ukrainian city.
- Vitaly Kim, head of the regional administration, said there wasn’t even enough time to raise the alarm over the raids “because by the time we announce this tornado, it’s already there”.
- “The (alert) message and the bombings arrive at the same time,” he said on social media.
- He gave no details about the extent of the damage or on any possible victims.
- Dozens of soldiers were killed after Russian troops struck the military barracks in Mykolaiv early Friday, witnesses told AFP on Saturday, as a rescue operation was under way.
- Authorities have not yet released an official death toll.