Russia-Ukraine crisis

Biden to meet NATO’s eastern members over Ukraine, China and Russia confer

Biden to meet NATO’s eastern members over Ukraine, China and Russia confer

BIDEN. US President Joe Biden delivers remarks ahead of the one year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outside the Royal Castle, in Warsaw, Poland, February 21, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

(1st UPDATE) US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin spar verbally regarding the Ukraine war, with Biden promising to defend democracies as Putin asserts the West is a threat to Russia

US President Joe Biden will meet leaders of NATO’s eastern flank on Wednesday, February 22, while China’s top diplomat holds talks in Moscow – contrasting shows of support ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Within Ukraine, schools took their classes online for the rest of the week for fear of an upsurge of Russian missile attacks a year on from Moscow’s February 24 all-out assault, which failed to topple the government and has long been bogged down.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to the stalemate with veiled threats to use nuclear weapons. He suspended a nuclear arms control treaty on Tuesday, accusing Washington of turning the war into a global conflict by arming Ukraine.

China and Russia struck a new “no limits” partnership just weeks before the invasion, and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi was due to meet Putin on Wednesday. Addressing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “my dear friend”, he said he expects to strike new agreements during his visit.

“No matter how the international situation changes, China has been and remains committed, together with Russia, to make efforts to preserve the positive trend in the development of relations between major powers,” Wang said.

Biden, who underlined his support for Kyiv in a surprise visit to war-torn Ukraine on Monday, then rallied NATO allies in Poland, saying the invasion had tested the whole world but Washington and its allies had shown they would defend democracy.

“There should be no doubt: Our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided, and we will not tire,” he said in the Royal Castle of Warsaw on Tuesday.

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In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who argues that NATO represents an existential threat to Russia, delivered a warning to the West over Ukraine by suspending its last major nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, New START.

Russia’s foreign ministry said later it would continue abiding by the restrictions outlined in New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) on the number of nuclear warheads it could have deployed. Russia’s lower house of parliament rubber-stamped the suspension of the treaty on Wednesday.

Biden rejected Russia’s assertion that Western allies were seeking to control or destroy Russia, and accused Moscow of crimes against humanity such as targeting civilians and rape. Russia denies committing war crimes or targeting civilians.

‘Find a solution’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Putin’s suspension of the nuclear treaty was “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it made the world more dangerous and urged Putin to reconsider.

Blinken has also said Washington is concerned Beijing was considering supplying weapons to Moscow and warned of consequences should that happen.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said the New START treaty and other instruments were important for the global security architecture and “the parties concerned should continue to negotiate with each other”.

Tension over Ukraine had already halted inspections under the treaty, which calls for the United States and Russia to let each other check their nuclear arsenals.

NATO allies and other supporters have sent Ukraine tens of billions of dollars worth of arms and ammunition. Since the new year they have promised modern battle tanks, though they have yet to offer Western fighter jets sought by Kyiv.

On Wednesday, Biden will meet leaders of the Bucharest Nine, NATO’s eastern members that joined the alliance after years of Cold War domination by the then Soviet Union. They include many of the strongest supporters of military aid to Ukraine.


Russia suffered three major battlefield reverses in Ukraine last year but still controls nearly a fifth of the country. It has launched a massive offensive in recent weeks in eastern provinces, so far making only marginal gains despite some of the heaviest losses of the war.

Ukraine’s military said Bakhmut city, the focus of Russian advances in the eastern region of Donetsk, came under shelling, along with 20 other settlements in the area.

The governor of the neighboring Luhansk region said Ukraine had repelled intense attacks around the town of Kreminna further north.

“At Kreminna yesterday the enemy tried to break through with the help of a company of tanks and infantry,” Serhiy Haidai said on Ukrainian television. “Several of their tanks remained on the battlefield – ours simply destroyed them. The breakthrough failed, the situation stabilized.”

Two civilians were wounded in a Russian missile strike on Wednesday on industrial facilities in Kharkhiv, the biggest city in eastern Ukraine, local officials said.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports.

The biggest land war in Europe since World War Two has displaced millions, left cities, towns and villages in ruins and disrupted the global economy. The UN rights office has recorded more than 8,000 civilians killed, a figure it describes as the “tip of the iceberg”. –

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