Ukraine Latest: Putin Says Russia, China Not ‘Military Alliance’

Vladimir Putin said Russia is preparing to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, escalating a confrontation with the US and its allies. The US will monitor the implications of Putin’s move, the White House’s National Security Council said. Putin also said Russia and China haven’t formed a “military alliance.”

(Bloomberg) — Vladimir Putin said Russia is preparing to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, escalating a confrontation with the US and its allies. The US will monitor the implications of Putin’s move, the White House’s National Security Council said. Putin also said Russia and China haven’t formed a “military alliance.” 

The head of the UN’s nuclear agency will travel to the Zaporizhzhia plant this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on its website. It will be the second time Rafael Mariano Grossi has crossed the front line in Ukraine to reach the facility, occupied by Russia for the past year.  

Multiple Russian attacks with various types of weapons on Sunday killed at least five civilians and wounded 25 others across eight regions, Ukraine’s military said. More than 60 infrastructure targets were hit. 

Key Developments

  • Putin Says Russia to Place Tactical Nuclear Arms in Belarus 
  • Germany Wants EU To Place End-User Controls On Sanctioned Tech
  • Russia Seeks 400,000 More Recruits as Latest Ukraine Push Stalls
  • Credit Suisse, UBS Among Banks in DOJ Russia-Sanctions Probe 

(All times CET)

Putin Says Russia, China Not Creating Military Alliance (10 a.m.)

While Russia is cooperating with China in military and technical matters, it’s not setting up a military alliance with Beijing, President Vladimir Putin said in comments broadcast on state television on Sunday.

The nations continue to hold joint drills, and all interactions are transparent, Putin said in a new segment of the interview shown on Saturday, in which he announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Putin also accused the West of building a “new axis” similar to that of Nazi Germany. 

The comments came days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Moscow since the start of the war in Ukraine. Russia, China and Iran this month held a fourth round of naval exercises in the Arabian Sea, while China, Russia and South Africa conducted naval drills in February. 

Kremlin Has Made Belarus ‘A Nuclear Hostage,’ Ukrainian Official Says (10 a.m.)

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council, said the Kremlin has made Belarus “a nuclear hostage” by announcing it will place tactical nuclear weapons in the country for the first time. 

“It maximizes the level of negative perception and public rejection of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society,” Danilov said in a Twitter post. 

Actor Orlando Bloom Visits Ukraine for UNICEF (9:45 a.m.)

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom arrived in Ukraine to support children, the agency’s Ukraine branch said. 

The British star of the “Lord of the Rings” franchise visited a so-called “children’s spot ”in Kyiv — a safe place where Ukrainian children can play, study and receive psychosocial support.

Bloom also visited Ukraine for the UN children’s fund in 2016, when he visited Slovyansk in the Donetsk region. 

Five Civilians Killed Across Eight Regions Early Sunday (8 a.m.)

At least five civilians were killed and 25 injured after Russian attacks on eight Ukrainian regions early Sunday morning, the Ukrainian military’s media center said. Among the targets of a missile attack were two apartment buildings in Avdiivka. 

More than 130 settlements were shelled with various types of weapons, including mortars, artillery, multiple-launch rockets and the S-300 air defense system, Lancet UAV, and tactical aircraft. More then 60 infrastructure targets were hit.

In their ground operations in Ukraine’s Donbas, Russian troops to press in the areas of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Maryinka directions. Ukrainian army repelled more than 85 attacks within the past day, its General Staff said on Facebook. 

Think Tank Says Risk of Nuclear Escalation Remains Low (7 a.m.) 

The announcement of the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus is “irrelevant to the risk of escalation to nuclear war, which remains extremely low,” said analysts at the US-based Institute for the Study of War. 

“Putin is attempting to exploit Western fears of nuclear escalation,” the think tank said in an overnight report. “Russia has long fielded nuclear-capable weapons able to strike any target that tactical nuclear weapons based in Belarus could hit.”

ISW said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko offered to host Russian nuclear arms as early as November 2021, and that a Russian arms deployment there may be “part of a broader effort to deepen Russian control over Belarus.”  

White House: Reason to Adjust US Nuclear Position After Putin’s Move (7 a.m.)

US officials are aware of Putin’s announcement Saturday on a plan to locate strategic Russian weapons in Belarus and will monitor the implications, said Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council at the White House.

“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” Watson said by email. “We remain committed to the collective defense of the NATO alliance.”  

Putin Says Russia Will Station Tactical Nuclear Arms in Belarus (6:52 p.m.)

President Vladimir Putin said Russia is preparing to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, escalating a confrontation with the US and its allies over the war in Ukraine. 

Moscow isn’t handing control of the weapons to Belarus, and won’t be in breach of its non-proliferation obligations under an agreement with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said in comments broadcast on state television Saturday.

IAEA’s Grossi Will Travel to Zaporizhzhia Atomic Plant Next week (6 p.m.) 

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, will travel to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant next week, his second time crossing the front line to reach the facility, the agency said on its web site. 

Grossi plans to “assess first-hand the serious nuclear safety and security situation at the facility,” occupied by Russia since the earliest days of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

In a statement, Grossi said he wants “to see for myself how the situation has evolved since September, and to talk to those operating the facility in these unprecedented and very difficult circumstances.” The IAEA has had expert teams on site at Zaporizhzhia since that initial visit, yet Grossi described the situation there was “still precarious.”  

Erdogan Urges ‘Immediate Cessation’ of Conflict (1 p.m.)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Vladimir Putin, thanking Russia’s president for helping to facilitate another extension of the Black Sea safe-transit deal for Ukrainian grain exports, according to a readout from Ankara. 

Erdogan highlighted the importance of “the immediate cessation” of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through negotiations, according the readout. 

A Kremlin readout made no reference to efforts to end the war in Ukraine. Russia said the pair also discussed Syria, and normalization process of Syria-Turkey relations.

Zelenskiy Chief of Staff Warns Not to Soften on Sanctions (12:59 p.m.)

Hours after Poland’s prime minister said there’s waning interest in parts of Europe about imposing additional sanctions on Moscow, Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff warned against wavering resolve. 

“There must be no softening for sanctions against Russia,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter and Telegram, saying  that “severe sanctions provide security” and that there must be no “manipulations” on the subject of food security. 

“We need to expand sanctions and to approach in detail the issue of firms used by the enemy to find ways, albeit complicated, to get components for weapon production,” Yermak posted in Ukrainian.   


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