Live Updates: China Reinforces Russia Ties, Despite War | World News

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The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

BEIJING — China’s Foreign Minister on Monday called Russia Beijing’s “most important strategic partner,” amid its continued refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

Wang Yi told reporters ties with Moscow constituted “one of the most crucial bilateral relationships in the world,” adding “no matter how perilous the international landscape, we will maintain our strategic focus and promote the development of comprehensive China-Russia partnership in the new era.”

China has broken with the U.S., Europe and others that have imposed sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. It says Washington is to blame for the conflict in Ukraine.

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VILNIUS, Lithuania — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has begun a lightning visit to the three Baltic states that are increasingly on edge as they watch Russia press ahead with its invasion of Ukraine.

The former Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are all members of NATO and Blinken aims to reassure them of the alliance’s protection in the event Russia chooses to expand its military operations to other neighboring countries.

Memories of Soviet occupation are still fresh in the Baltics and since the invasion of Ukraine last month, NATO has moved quickly to boost its troop presence in its eastern flank allies while the U.S. has pledged additional support.

Blinken’s Baltic tour opened Monday in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, where support for Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion government is palpable with signs of solidarity with Ukrainians in many businesses and on public buildings and buses.

“Unfortunately, the worsening security situation in the Baltic region is of great concern for all of us and around the world,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told Blinken. “Russia’s reckless aggression against Ukraine once again proves that it is a long-term threat to European security, the security of our alliance.”

Nauseda said that a policy of deterrence was no longer enough and that “forward defense” was now needed. He predicted that “Putin will not stop in Ukraine if he will not be stopped Putin. It is our collective duty as a nation to help all Ukrainians with all means available. By saying all, I mean, indeed all means, if we want to avoid the Third World War. The choice is in our hands.”

Later Monday, Blinken will travel to Riga, Latvia before visiting Tallinn, Estonia on Tuesday

LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says Russian forces made little progress on the ground in recent days but appear to be targeting Ukraine’s communications infrastructure “in order to reduce Ukrainian citizens’ access to reliable news and information.”

The ministry said on social media that Russian forces “probably made minimal ground advances over the weekend.

It said a TV tower in Kharkiv was reportedly struck Sunday, suspending broadcasting output. A TV tower in Kyiv was hit March 1.

Britain said Ukrainian internet access is also highly likely being disrupted as a result of collateral damage from Russian strikes on infrastructure.

LVIV, Ukraine — Russia has announced a cease-fire and the opening of humanitarian corridors in several areas of Ukraine after two failed attempts to evacuate civilians from the city of Mariupol.

A Russian task force said a cease-fire would start Monday morning, the 12th day of the war, for civilians from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol, Kharkiv, the second-largest city, and Sumy. It wasn’t immediately clear if fighting would stop stop beyond the areas mentioned in the task force’s statement, or when the ceasefire would end.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians attempting to flee to safety Sunday were forced to shelter from Russian shelling that pummeled cities in Ukraine’s center, north and south. Ukraine officials described a “catastrophic” situation during failed evacuation efforts in Kyiv’s suburbs.

Officials from both sides also planned a third round of talks Monday.

Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the earlier failed evacuation attempts.

Evacuation routes published by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, citing the Defense Ministry, show that civilians will be able to leave to Russia and Belarus. Russian forces will be observing the ceasefire with drones, the task force said.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s government plans to rush through legislation that will allow it to impose economic sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

New Zealand’s existing laws don’t allow it to impose meaningful sanctions except as part of a broader United Nations effort. That has left New Zealand hamstrung since Russia has U.N. Security Council veto power.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday the new legislation would allow New Zealand to target people, companies and assets associated with the invasion, including Russian oligarchs. New Zealand also could freeze assets and stop superyachts or planes from arriving.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the bill “will send a very clear signal that New Zealand will not be a safe haven for those wishing to move their investments here.”

The Russia Sanctions Bill is scheduled to be heard by lawmakers on Wednesday and could pass as quickly as the same day. Ardern said she’s hoping it will be supported by lawmakers across all parties although a unanimous vote wasn’t guaranteed.

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House is exploring legislation to further isolate Russia from the global economy, including banning the import of its oil and energy products into the U.S.

Amid rising gasoline prices in the U.S., the Biden administration has yet to call for an oil import ban on Russia.

In a letter to Democrats released Sunday night, Pelosi says the legislation under consideration would also repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and begin the process of denying Russia access to the World Trade Organization.

Pelosi says the House would also empower the Biden administration to raise tariffs on Russian imports.

Congress intends to approve the Biden administration’s request for $10 billion in humanitarian, military and economic support for Ukraine, Pelosi said, as part of omnibus government funding legislation this week.

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more than 20,000 people from 52 countries have already volunteered to fight in Ukraine, where they will serve in a newly created international legion. He did not say how many of the foreign volunteers have arrived in Ukraine.

“The whole world today is on Ukraine’s side not only in words but in deeds,” Kuleba said on Ukrainian television Sunday night.

He did not name the home countries of the volunteers, saying that some of them forbid their citizens from fighting for other countries.

Kuleba also urged Ukrainians living in other countries to begin a campaign to push for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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