Russia warns of escalation if West gives Ukraine long-range weapons

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Supplying Ukraine with weapons capable of striking Russia would lead to further escalation, the Kremlin warned on Thursday, as Western nations came under pressure to step up their military support for Kyiv. On the ground, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said investigators were examining possible causes for Wednesday’s helicopter crash near Kyiv that killed the country’s interior minister and 13 others. Follow our live blog for the latest updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

12:15pm: Moscow warns of escalation if West gives Ukraine longer-range weapons

The Kremlin has warned of further escalation in Ukraine if Western countries supply Kyiv with more weapons capable of striking Russian territory. 

“Potentially, this is extremely dangerous, it will mean bringing the conflict to a whole new level, which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The warning comes on the eve of a key meeting of Ukraine’s Western supporters at a military base in Germany, with talk of supplying Kyiv with modern battle tanks high on the agenda.

Peskov spoke after Moscow’s ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said Russia would retaliate if Ukraine uses Western-supplied weapons to target Russia or the Crimea peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

11:05am: Sweden to send infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine

The Swedish government has announced a new package of military aid to Ukraine that will include armoured infantry fighting vehicles, saying it ordered its defence forces to prepare shipment of the Archer artillery system.

The package is worth 4.3 billion Swedish crowns ($419 million) and will also include NLAW anti-tank weapons.

“Military support to Ukraine is absolutely crucial,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a news conference. “Ukraine’s wishes in terms of what they want carry a lot of weight in our decision.”

Sweden will send about 50 of its tracked and armoured Type 90 infantry fighting vehicle. The government did not specify how many Archer systems it would supply.

10:15am: Russia opens espionage case against US citizen

Russia’s FSB security service says it has opened a criminal case against a US citizen suspected of espionage.

“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal case against a US citizen on the grounds of a crime under the 276 ‘Espionage’ Article of the Criminal Code,” the FSB said. “The American is suspected of collecting intelligence information in the biological sphere, directed against the security of the Russian Federation,” it added. 

The FSB did not name the person or provide any other details, nor did it say whether the suspect had been arrested.

Several Americans are currently in detention in Russia and both countries accuse each other of political arrests. Last month, Moscow freed US basketball start Brittney Griner – arrested for bringing cannabis oil into the country – in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

8:40am: Zelensky says ‘several theories’ investigated after helicopter crash

Ukrainian investigators are exploring several hypotheses to explain the helicopter crash that killed the country’s interior minister and 13 others in a suburb of Kyiv on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

“The investigation is ongoing. There are several theories and I’m not authorised to talk about any of them until the investigation is finished,” Zelensky said in a video address to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Ukrainian leader said his country aimed to liberate all territories occupied by Russia, including the Crimean peninsula, as he called on his Western partners to provide him with more weaponry.

“Our objective is to liberate all of our territories,” he said, speaking in Ukrainian. “Crimea is our land, our territory, our sea, and our mountains. Give us your weapons and we will bring our land back.”

7:15am: US, German defence ministers meet amid differences over tanks for Ukraine

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will press Germany’s new Defence Minister Boris Pistorius to allow for the transfer of German-made tanks to Ukraine when they meet for talks later today – with the two countries still at loggerheads over the issue.

Germany will allow German-made tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help its defence against Russia if the United States agrees to send its own tanks, a German government source told Reuters.

But US officials publicly and privately insist that Washington has no plans to send US-made tanks to Ukraine for now, arguing that they would too difficult for Kyiv to maintain and would require a huge logistical effort to simply run.

US officials say supplying Ukraine with German-made Leopard tanks makes the most sense as a number of European countries already have them and are willing to transfer them quickly – pending approval from Berlin.

Read more: UK offers tanks in Ukraine’s hour of need, but will Germany follow suit?

4:45am: US to provide $125 million to Ukraine to support energy systems

The United States will provide $125 million to Ukraine to support its energy and electric grids, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Ukrainian cities have been hit by repeated power outages as a result of targeted attacks by Russian forces, leaving millions without power even as they contend with freezing winter temperatures.

10:56pm : US not ‘there yet’ on Abrams tanks for Ukraine

The United States is not currently prepared to provide advanced Abrams tanks to Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said, citing difficulties in maintenance and training.

Ukraine has repeatedly pushed for modern Western tanks to help battle Russia’s invasion, and Germany has reportedly linked its decision on whether to do so to Washington’s willingness to provide Abrams.

“I just don’t think we’re there yet,” US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told journalists when asked about providing Abrams to Ukraine, though he did not completely close the door on a shift in the future. “The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It’s expensive, it’s hard to train on, it has a jet engine – I think it’s about three gallons to the mile with jet fuel. It is not the easiest system to maintain,” Kahl said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

This story originally Appeared on France24


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