Russia is now ‘at war against’ NATO and the West’ and has taken the invasion of Ukraine to a ‘different stage’, a senior EU official has admitted, raising the terrifying specter of global conflict.
The ‘groundbreaking’ deal between Western leaders to pump advanced tanks into the country to fire through the Kremlin’s invading troops has sparked anger in Moscow that has threatened to escalate the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European Union‘s European External Action Service, Vladimir said Putin will increase indiscriminate attacks on civilian and non-military targets and retaliate against the West.
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo as part of an Asia-Pacific tour, he said Putin had “moved from a concept of a special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West.”
A Ukrainian tank fires at a Russian position near the town of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, yesterday
The official defended the US and German tank supplies, saying they are not intended as an attack, but rather to help Ukrainians defend themselves.
He said: “I think this latest development in terms of armed supplies is just an evolution of the situation and of the way Russia started to take the war to another stage.”
He added that Russia is carrying out “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and cities and no longer on military targets.
The EU is not looking for an escalation of hostilities, it is only giving the opportunity to save lives and enable the Ukrainians to defend themselves against these barbaric attacks,” Sannino said.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said today that the US holds the key to ending the war in Ukraine, but refuses to use it.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Joe Biden of “pumping weapons into Ukraine” when he could instead broker a ceasefire.
Germany and the US announced on Wednesday they will send advanced main battle tanks to Ukraine, offering what one expert called an “armoured strike capability” to help Kiev break stalemates in combat as the Russian invasion enters its 12th month.
Local residents remove rubble from their neighbor’s house damaged by a Russian military strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine
A woman takes photos with her mobile phone next to destroyed houses after Russian missile attacks
A German-made Leopard tank is pictured during exercises in Canada and will soon be deployed to the battlefield
Click here to read: France seeks excuses NOT to send tanks to Ukraine
The announcement marked the first phase of a coordinated effort by the West to supply dozens of heavy weapons, which Ukrainian military commanders said would enable counter-offensives, reduce casualties and help restore dwindling ammunition supplies.
Joe Biden said his country will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks, refuting months of persistent arguments from Washington that they were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
The US decision followed Germany’s agreement to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its stock.
In response, Russia has stepped up its efforts to breach Ukraine’s defenses with heavy fighting in the east of the country.
The Ukrainian military said fierce fighting was underway a day after Russian missiles and drones killed at least 11 people in retaliation for the tank deal.
Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the allies for their support, but reiterated calls for tougher sanctions against Moscow and made it clear that his country needed more weapons to repel the invaders in the twelfth month of the war.
“This evil, this Russian aggression can and must only be stopped with adequate weapons. The terrorist state will not understand anything else,” Zelensky said in his nightly televised address on Thursday.
Putin (pictured yesterday) has stepped up his efforts to breach Ukraine’s defenses with heavy fighting in the east of the country
‘Weapons on the battlefield. Weapons that protect our skies. New sanctions against Russia, so political and economic weapons.’
The Ukrainian army said it shot down 47 of 59 Russian missiles on Thursday. Russia also launched 37 airstrikes, 17 of them with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. All drones were shot down, it said.
Eleven people were killed in the drone and missile strikes, which spanned multiple regions and also damaged dozens of buildings, a State Emergency Service spokesman said.
Local officials on Friday reported heavy shelling in northern, northeastern and eastern Ukraine, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting since Russia’s invasion.
“Fierce fighting continues along the front lines. Our defenders are holding their positions firmly and inflicting losses on the enemy,” said Oleh Synehubov, governor of the northeastern region of Kharkiv.
Oleksandr Musiyenko, head of Ukraine’s Military and Strategic Research Center, said Russia is sending more reinforcements to block the Ukrainian advance.
“They usually send infantry and artillery troops into battle, mostly made up of conscripts. But they don’t have the level of artillery and tank support they had on February 24,” Musiyenko told Ukrainian television.
Ukrainian soldiers ride a Soviet-era T-72 tank, widely used in the ongoing conflict, in the Donetsk region, January 20
They have fewer resources. They rely on the numerical superiority of their troops.’
The front lines have remained largely frozen over the past two months, with Russia trying to gain more ground in the east after occupying much of what is known as the Donbas region and protecting a land corridor in southern Ukraine.
Britain said in a regular intelligence update on Friday that Russian forces had likely carried out sounding attacks near Orikhiv in the southeast and at Vuhledar in the east, but were unlikely to have made “substantial progress”.
Both sides are widely expected to launch a spring offensive.
Where will the main (Russian) strike take place? For now, we have no idea. Diversionary attacks are possible in all sectors and, in one or two cases, mass attacks aimed at breaking through a corridor through Ukraine,” Mykola Sunhurovskiy, director of military programs at the Think Tank Razumkov Center in Ukraine, told the nv.ua website. .
Russia has responded to Ukrainian successes in the past with heavy airstrikes that left millions without light, heat or water.
Ukrainian soldiers were seen yesterday at their mortar position on the frontline of Donbass
An APC drive threw the recaptured town of Lyman in the Donetsk region yesterday at a key moment in the war
On Thursday, it appeared to follow that pattern. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russia’s attacks targeted power plants.
The Kremlin said it saw the promised supply of Western tanks as evidence of growing “direct involvement” by the United States and Europe in the war, something both deny.
Western allies have deployed about 150 tanks, while Ukraine says it needs hundreds to break through Russian defenses and recapture occupied territory in the south and east. Both Moscow and Kiev, which relied on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, are expected to launch new ground offensives in the spring.
After being promised modern tanks, Ukraine is now seeking fourth-generation Western fighter jets such as the US F-16, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister said.
The United States on Thursday formally designated the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary company, as a transnational criminal organization, freezing its US assets for helping the Russian military in Ukraine.
The head of a Russian-controlled part of the Donetsk region said on Wednesday that Wagner units were advancing in the city of Bakhmut. A senior Ukrainian official said fighting in Bakhmut and Vuhledar intensified.
Since invading Ukraine 11 months ago, Russia has shifted the focus of its rhetoric from “denazifying” and “demilitarizing” its neighbor to confronting what is said to be an aggressive and expansionist US-led NATO alliance.