Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky urged Western powers to support his country without restrictions in the face of a possible invasion by Russia, which has “successfully” conducted nuclear-capable missile tests near the border with the former Soviet republic.
Zelenski made this call during the conference on security held in the German city of Munich, in which he asked the West to abandon the strategy of “appeasement” of the Kremlin.
“Everyone must understand that Ukraine is not asking for charitable contributions. It is its contribution to the security of Europe and the world, where Ukraine has been the shield for eight years,” the president said, referring to the conflict with the separatists. pro-Russian in the east of the country, which erupted in 2014 after the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
In addition, he requested to establish a “clear and feasible” timetable for Ukraine’s accession to NATO, something that would mean crossing a red line in the crisis with Moscow.
However, he proposed to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to clarify what his intentions are.
“I don’t know what the Russian president wants, that’s why I propose that we meet,” he said, quoted by the AFP news agency.
Since late last year, tension around the former Soviet nation has spiked after Russia deployed tens of thousands of troops to the Ukraine border, prompting calls from Washington and NATO to withdraw them for fear of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. that European country.
Some accusations rejected by the Kremlin, which denounced hostile activities of the military alliance near its territory and demanded guarantees so that it does not continue to expand towards its borders.
In recent days, tension has increased particularly in eastern Ukraine, where this Saturday government forces and pro-Russian separatists once again accused each other of new attacks and of violating the ceasefire in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Kiev reported the death of two soldiers “as a result of a shelling”, but indicated that its armed forces “control the situation and continue to carry out their mission to repel and contain the armed aggression of the Russian Federation”.
For their part, the leaders of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where the front line that divides Ukraine is located, ordered the general mobilization, after announcing the evacuation of civilians.
During the last hours more than 10,000 people crossed the border with Russia, a source told the Sputnik news agency.
Faced with this escalation, the governments of Germany, France and Austria called on their citizens present in Ukraine to immediately leave that country.
The deterioration of the situation in the area was denounced by Washington as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to justify “aggression” in Ukraine, although Moscow denies any involvement in that conflict, which it describes as an internal affair of the European nation.
Meanwhile, Putin supervised this Saturday “strategic” exercises with “hypersonic” missiles programmed next to Belarus.
These are new weapons that the head of the Kremlin recently described as “invincible” and that can carry a nuclear payload.
“The planned objectives during the exercises of the strategic deterrence forces were successfully met. All the missiles hit the established targets,” the Russian Presidency said in a statement.
These exercises They came hours after the president of the United States, Joe Biden, assured that Moscow “already made the decision” to invade Ukraine in the next “week” or “days” and warned that he will seek to create “a false justification” for the attack.
Some accusations rejected by Moscow, which announced several troop withdrawals this week and stated that the 30,000 Russian soldiers involved in these maneuvers will return to their barracks once the exercises are over.
However, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a visit to Lithuania that Russian troops on the Ukraine border are “deploying” and are “prepared to attack.”
Faced with this alleged threat, the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, warned Russia that it will face “unprecedented” economic costs if it finally decides to attack Ukraine, which would provoke a battery of “swift, severe and solidarity” sanctions against individuals, financial institutions and key industries in the country.
“The borders cannot be changed with the use of force, that is something we cannot allow,” Harris warned at the Munich forum, according to the Europa Press news agency.
But Putin downplayed this type of retaliation on the eve: “Sanctions will be introduced no matter what happens. Whether there is a reason or not, they will find one because their goal is to stop the development of Russia,” he declared.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke out against reviving the “Cold War mentality.”
Without expressly mentioning the United States, Wang said that “a certain great power” is “stoking up the inter-bloc confrontation” and said “it should not be allowed to continue”, while condemning the “unilateral” sanctions imposed on Moscow. in the last weeks.