UKRAINE (April 27, 2022)—A new US-led coalition of willing, western allies is forming to help Ukraine fight and – they hope – defeat Russia’s invading forces.
The group of more than 40 countries, many of them European, including the UK, but also from further afield such as Kenya, Australia and South Korea, is gearing up for the long haul, with plans to sustain a vital flow of weapons to the Ukrainian military for months if not years.
A new US-led coalition of willing, western allies is forming to help Ukraine fight and – they hope – defeat Russia’s invading forces.
They know that their involvement – albeit from a distance – in Russia’s war in Ukraine raises the risk of a direct military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed sides.
Such a prospect jangled western nerves in the early days of the conflict.
But the evolution in the types of arms being gifted to Ukraine, moving from ammunition to tanks, underlines a hardening of the West’s resolve to stand up to Russia’s actions and to leave Moscow weakened so it may not again be able to wage the same kind of war against a neighbor.
Lloyd Austin, the US Defense Secretary, gathered the allies together at a sprawling US air base in Germany for an initial meeting on Tuesday. It’s a forum that is set to meet monthly – a signal that this is a long-term shift in Europe’s security environment.
“Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here,” he told attendees.
As for the threat of escalation leading to a nuclear confrontation – something Russia has threatened – Mr Austin told reporters afterwards: “Nobody wants to see a nuclear war. Nobody can win it.”
He added: “There’s always a possibility a number of things can happen, but I think it is unhelpful and dangerous to rattle sabres and speculate about the use of nuclear weapons.”
General Mark Milley, the top US military officer, stressed the need to supply Ukraine with ever more conventional weapons as it faces a new offensive by Russia in the east after successfully beating Russian forces back from an attempt to seize the capital, Kyiv.
Speaking in the closed-door session, he called the coming weeks “critical” and said time “is not on Ukraine’s side”.
General Milley said: “The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room. The Ukrainians will fight. We need to make sure they have the means to fight.”
Offering a similar perspective, Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, is set to say that allies will never feel safe again if Russian President Vladimir Putin achieves his goal of conquering Ukraine.
“We cannot be complacent – the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance,” she will say in a speech at Mansion House in London, according to pre-released remarks.
“And let’s be clear – if Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe. We would never feel safe again. So we must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine.”
Ms. Truss is set to push for countries to gift heavy weapons, tanks and planes “digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this”.
It is already a fact that western weapons fired by Ukrainian troops are killing Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
James Heappey, the Armed Forces Minister, on Tuesday even went as far as to say it would be “entirely legitimate” for Ukraine to hit military targets on Russian soil with western weapons if it wants to go after logistics and supply lines.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Russia has said the West’s support for Ukraine means it is effectively in a war with Russia by proxy.
“War means war,” Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said in a television interview this week.
The bloodshed, carnage and uncertainty caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine is, for now, contained within Ukrainian borders. Yet there are signs emerging of unrest in next door Moldova, amid fears that could become a new front for Russia.
Ultimately, Western allies appear to have calculated that President Putin can only be stopped if his forces are beaten in Ukraine – something that can only happen with western support, even if that ultimately means risking a wider war in Europe in the process.
PM does not expect Putin will use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today he did not expect Russian President Vladimir Putin will use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Asked by Talk TV if he expected his Russian counterpart to consider using tactical nuclear weapons if he suffered more military failures, Mr Johnson said: “No, I don’t.
“Given the massive Russian backing for what he is doing, given the apparent obliviousness of the Russian media about what is really happening in Ukraine, the paradox is that Putin has far more political space to back down, to withdraw.”
Mr Johnson went on to say it was “very important” that the West “don’t accept the way that the Russians are trying to frame what is happening in Ukraine”.
He said: “They are trying to frame this as a conflict between Russia and the West, or Russia and NATO. That’s not what is going on.”
Speaking on the possibility of a prisoner swap to free British soldier Aiden Aslin, who has been captured by Russian forces, Mr Johnson said the government would “do what we can” but could not “pre-empt” the decisions made by Ukraine’s leaders.
He said: “We will do what we can. Clearly it is for the Ukrainians. They have the other individual who is part of the equation. We can’t really pre-empt what they may decide.”
He added: “It is very important to understand that Aiden and other UK nationals who have been fighting for the Ukraine armed forces who get captured are not hostages and they are not to be swapped as though they are terrorists – they are prisoners of war.
“They are, therefore, entitled to rights under the Geneva Convention.”
Russian defence ministry claims Ukraine has lost Kherson
Russia’s defence ministry has claimed Ukraine has lost control of the entire Kherson region, according to Interfax news agency.
Elsewhere in the south of Ukraine, Russian troops had taken parts of Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv, as well as a part of Kharkiv to the east of Kyiv, the agency reported, citing a senior official.
Sky News has not been able to independently verify the claims.
Kherson in southern Ukraine is a key port city on the Black Sea that is of major strategic importance to Russia.
If troops succeed in taking the region, they will be able to link Russia with their occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk and Crimea.
The region is also important because it is home to the area’s fresh water supply, which the Russians could then use to restore water supplies to Crimea.
Russia’s expulsion of Swedish diplomats ‘unjustified and disproportionate’, Sweden’s foreign minister says
Russia’s decision to expel four Swedish diplomats is “unjustified and disproportionate”, Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde said today.
In a message on social media, Ms Linde vowed that Sweden would respond “appropriately” to the expulsions announced today.
She wrote: “Russia has today decided to expel four Swedish diplomats. Russian action is unjustified and disproportionate.
“By expelling Western diplomats, Russia is blocking its international isolation. Sweden will respond appropriately to Russia’s unwarranted actions.”
Swedish news agency TT has reported that three of the diplomats were based in Moscow, where the embassy is located, and one in St. Petersburg.
Earlier this month, Sweden expelled three Russian diplomats.
Situation in besieged city of Mariupol ‘tragic’ and ‘complicated’, Putin says
President Vladimir Putin has been speaking with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres at a meeting in Moscow today to discuss the war in Ukraine.
The Russian leader described the situation in the besieged city of Mariupol, which has faced the brunt of Kremlin aggression for weeks, as “tragic” and “complicated”.
He said: “The situation is complicated there – and tragic. But it’s simple, really. I’ve spoken to (Turkish) President Erdogan today, he said that military operations were taking place there.
“No, the military operations have ended there. There are no military operations in Mariupol. They’ve stopped.”
He went on to accuse Ukrainian forces of “hiding behind” civilians in the Azovstal steelworks and said the “easiest thing to do is to release them”.
“We hear from the Ukrainian authorities that there are civilians there. In that case, the servicemen of the Ukrainian army must release them or they are acting as terrorists as ISIS in Syria,” Mr Putin said.
During the meeting, Mr Putin said that while Russia’s “military operation” was still underway the Kremlin still “hoped to achieve agreements through a diplomatic channel” before adding that peace talks were continuing in an online format.
The Russian leader went on to say that while he hoped talks with Ukraine “will yield a positive result” there were issues that needed to be streamlined before meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Ukraine begins demolishing Russian friendship monument in Kyiv
The Ukrainian authorities have begun dismantling a monument dedicated to Russian-Ukrainian friendship.
The People’s Friendship Arch, which is located in the capital of Kyiv, was installed in 1982 to commemorate the reunification of Ukraine and Russia.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Dnieper River, the iconic landmark consists of a rainbow-shaped arch, a bronze statue depicting Russian and Ukrainian workers and a granite stone slab.
Today, the city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said Russia had “marked” its attitude to Ukraine with a “barbaric desire to destroy our state and peaceful Ukrainians”.
He said dismantling the structure would be completed by this evening and the arch would be renamed.
Mr Klitschko wrote: “We are dismantling eight metres of metal of the so-called ‘friendship of two peoples’.
“And what is symbolic – when they tried to lift the sculpture with a crane, the head of a Russian worker fell off. “
The city’s mayor went on to say around 60 more monuments related to the Soviet Union and Russia would be taken down and over 460 streets would be renamed across Kyiv.
Мер Києва Віталій Кличко розповів, коли розпочнеться демонтаж скульптурної композиції, встановленої у Києві в 1982 «на ознаменування возз'єднання України з росією» під аркою "дружби народів" і яких змін зазнає сама арка https://t.co/AqQk1kbK0Z pic.twitter.com/52sN3u4tEO— Верховна Рада України (@verkhovna_rada) April 25, 2022
Source: Sky News wrote the original article.