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Ukraine war: Kyiv and Washington clarify leaders’ nuclear remarks to allay fears

Here are Friday’s key developments related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

1. White House Downplays Biden’s Nuclear ‘Armageddon’ Comments

The White House has sought to clarify US President Joe Biden’s statement that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at the highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed that there was no indication “that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons imminently”.

She told reporters on Friday that the United States saw no reason to adjust its own strategic nuclear posture and that Biden was simply showing “how seriously” he took Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric.

Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser on Thursday night, Biden warned that Putin was “not kidding” when he talks about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.

He added that Kremlin-backed forces were “underperforming” and said the United States was trying to figure out Putin’s “exit ramp” after the war.

“We haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Biden added.

For months, US officials have warned of the possibility that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine as it faced strategic setbacks on the battlefield, although Biden’s remarks marked the strongest warnings to date from the US government regarding nuclear issues.

Yet Jean-Pierre pointed out that nothing has changed in US intelligence assessments, which in recent weeks have shown no evidence that Putin has any imminent plans to deploy nuclear weapons.

2. Kyiv: Zelensky called for pre-emptive ‘sanctions’ against Russia, not a nuclear strike

A spokesman for the Ukrainian president said Volodymyr Zelenskyy would never ask NATO to launch a nuclear first strike to prevent Russia from releasing its own nuclear arsenal.

Zelenskyy’s press secretary, Serhiy Nikiforov, said on Friday that the Ukrainian president’s remark during a discussion at Australia’s Lowy Institute did not imply that NATO should launch a preemptive nuclear attack, but rather act to proactively with additional sanctions as it should have done before February 24 from Russia. invasion.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak posted on Twitter that Zelenskyy’s reference to strikes meant the West should step up sanctions as well as military aid to Ukraine.

In response to a question about what NATO should do to deter Russia from using nuclear weapons, Zelenksyy told the Lowy Institute that the alliance should “make it impossible for Russia to use nuclear weapons.” by “preemptive strikes, so that they know what will happen to them”. if they do”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seized on Zelensky’s remarks, saying they confirmed the need for what Moscow calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.

3. Zaporizhzhia missile hits rising death toll as Russia steps up drone attacks

The death toll from a missile attack on apartment buildings in a southern Ukrainian town rose to 12 as more Russian missiles targeted Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia on Friday.

The Zaporizhzhia regional administration said on Friday that 21 people had been rescued from the rubble of residential buildings hit by modified S-300 missiles. A dozen people remain hospitalized, including two children.

Russia reportedly converted the S-300 from its original use as a long-range anti-aircraft weapon to a missile for ground attack due to a shortage of other more suitable weapons.

Regional Governor Oleksandr Staruch posted on his Telegram channel that it was not random, but a deliberate strike on multi-storey buildings.

He also said that – for the first time – Russian forces deployed Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones on Friday that damaged two infrastructure in Zaporizhzha.

Unmanned, disposable “kamikaze drones” are cheaper and less sophisticated than missiles, but have proven effective in causing damage to ground targets.

The Ukrainian military said most of the drones shot down on Thursday and Friday were Iranian-made Shahed-136s. However, weapons are unlikely to significantly affect the course of the war, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of Warfare said.

“They used many drones against civilian targets in rear areas, probably hoping to generate non-linear effects through terror. Such efforts are not successful,” the think tank analysts wrote.

4. UN human rights body to appoint Russian abuse monitor

The UN’s top human rights body has voted to appoint an observer to look into reported rights abuses in Russia.

The measure was endorsed by the 47-member UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This is the first time that a special rapporteur has been appointed to investigate rights issues in a permanent member of the Security Council.

“For years, we have witnessed a constant deterioration of the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, which has accelerated in recent months,” said Mirk Bichler, Luxembourg’s ambassador to the HRC.

“The recent draconian laws aimed at stifling independent media and ‘undesirable’ organizations, the harsh penalties for anyone who questions the government, or the large number of people arrested in connection with protests, are some recent examples of a policy of systematic repression.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of people have been arrested for protesting the war and the recent partial mobilization mandate.

The UN vote came shortly after Russian advocacy group Memorial became a joint Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva condemned the decision as a “despicable” document, aimed at putting pressure on his country.

euronews Gt

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