Joe Biden has “predicted” that Russian President Vladimir Putin is about to launch a full-scale chemical weapons attack against Europe in the coming weeks.
Biden said that Russian allegations of U.S. funded biolabs in Ukraine is a ‘clear sign’ that Putin is considering using biological weapons to kill millions of people.
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Russia has recently accused the US of storing WMDs in Europe and of funding bioweapons labs in Ukraine. The Pentagon has admitted to funding Ukrainian biolabs but claims they aren’t anything sinister.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Any use of either weapon in Ukraine would prompt a ‘severe’ response from the US and NATO, Biden added last night in a repeat of his earlier comments, though again refused to spell out exactly what the allies would do.
He spoke as President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that he would not bow to Russian ‘ultimatums’ and that Ukraine ‘would have to be destroyed’ before he would be willing to simply hand over pieces of the country to Moscow.
It came after the city of Mariupol, which has been under siege for more than three weeks with no access to water, electricity or food, rejected a Russian demand of surrender in return for humanitarian relief. Officials said Russian promises of amnesty could not be trusted, and troops were willing to fight ‘to the last man’.
Speaking to Ukrainian TV on Monday evening, Zelensky reiterated that he was open to the idea of direct talks with Putin and that all issues were up for discussion – provided Russia is ready to declare a ceasefire and give Kyiv security guarantees to protect it from future attacks.
‘If I have this opportunity and Russia has the desire, we would go through all the questions,’ he said. ‘Would we solve them all? No. But there is chance, that we partially could – at least to stop the war.
‘At the first meeting with the president of Russia, I am ready to raise these issues,’ he said, adding that any agreement involving ‘historic’ changes to territory would have to be put to a national referendum.
‘This is a very difficult story for everyone. Crimea and Donbas… And to find a way out, we need to take this first step, which I spoke about: security guarantees, the end of the war,’ he added.
He repeated that Ukraine ‘already understood’ it could not join NATO but he added that his countrymen would not simply ‘hand over’ the capital, the eastern city of Kharkiv, or the heavily bombarded and besieged southern port of Mariupol. ‘Ukraine cannot fulfil Russian ultimatums,’ he said. ‘We should be destroyed first.’
As he spoke, Biden was also warning a meeting of US business leaders in Washington that Russia is also preparing cyberattacks on American companies and that they should prepare their defences.
‘If you have not already done so, I urge our private sector partners to harden your cyber defenses immediately,’ he said, citing ‘evolving intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks’ including in response to Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
‘It´s part of Russia´s playbook,’ he said.
His statement added that the US government would ‘continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure.’
However, he underlined that most critical infrastructure in the country is owned and operated by private entities, which cannot be compelled to take specific cyber security measures.
Biden noted that he had warned Putin of a US response if Russia launched cyber attacks against US critical infrastructure.
‘We had a long conversation about if he uses it, what will be the consequence,’ said Biden, referring to a summit with the Russian leader last year in Geneva.
Putin’s war on Ukraine is now approaching a month old, and what began as a short and sharp operation to seize key cities and topple the government has evolved into a bloody war of attrition that is causing huge losses to both sides with no clear path to victory for either.
Fighting has turned out to be far bloodier than Russia banked on, with a tabloid newspaper last night giving a glimpse of what may be accurate casualty figures for the first time – 9,861 men killed and 16,153 wounded as-of Sunday in what would be the country’s deadliest conflict since the Second World War.
The figure, published by the usually-pro Kremlin outlet Komsomolskaya Pravda, has not been confirmed by Moscow which only acknowledged 500 deaths on March 2 and has not updated the figure since.
But the number does appear credible, sitting between cautious US estimated of 7,000 dead and optimistic Ukrainian estimated of 15,000. If true, it would mean around a fifth of the 150,000-strong force that Moscow assembled on the border before launching its attack has been wiped out.
Ukraine is also suffering heavy losses, but these are even harder to quantify. Zelesnky has said 1,300 troops have died fighting, though this is almost certainly an under-estimate.
Civilian casualties are also largely unknown. The UN has confirmed almost 1,000 deaths including dozes of children, but acknowledges this falls far short of the actual toll. Officials in Mariupol – the hardest-hit Ukrainian city – say the death toll there could be as high as 20,000, but they have no way of verifying while under bombardment.
Russian forces are known to have levelled multiple cities and towns in the fighting, with Mariupol saying 80 per cent of buildings in the once-thriving Black Sea port are now destroyed – with 40 per cent unable to be rebuilt. No accurate estimate of the cost is available, though is certain to stretch into the tens if not hundreds of billions.
Aside from Mariupol, many other major cities in Ukraine remain under Russian bombardment including the capital Kyiv – with a 35-hour curfew coming into effect at 8pm Monday which is due to last until tomorrow morning.
It comes after a Russian missile – believed to be a short-range ballistic missile – slammed down on the Retroville shopping complex on Monday, almost totally destroying the building and killing at least eight people.
‘It’s the biggest bomb to have hit the city until now,’ said 30-year-old Dima Stepanienko, who found himself flung to ‘the foot of his bed’ by the explosion.
An Orthodox priest walking through the wreckage whispered prayers while cursing ‘Russian terrorists’. Russia claimed the mall was being used to store rocket systems and ammunition.
Moscow has stepped up its military activity, flying 300 sorties in the past 24 hours, in a ‘desperate’ bid to turn the tide against the Ukrainian resistance, a senior US defence official said.
Putin’s troops have already been accused of causing a humanitarian catastrophe in Mariupol, where some 350,000 people are trapped without water and electricity.
The city has been relentlessly assaulted, with more than 2,000 people killed, according to local officials, in what European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described as a ‘massive war crime’.
Mariupol is a pivotal target in Putin’s war – providing a land bridge between Russian forces in Crimea to the southwest and Russian-controlled territory to the north and east.
But even in areas Russia has captured, resistance has continued, with Ukraine’s leaders on Tuesday accusing Russian troops of firing on unarmed protesters in the occupied southern city of Kherson
A series of videos posted on social media and the messaging app Telegram showed citizens gathering in Kherson’s ‘Freedom Square’ protesting against Russia’s recent seizure of the city.
Russian soldiers could be seen firing into the air, and video footage showing a bleeding elderly man being carried away, though local officials said there were no fatalities.
Away from the frontlines, diplomatic manoeuvring will continue this week with Biden flying to Europe for talks with G7, EU and NATO leaders.
Western countries and allies are expected to shore up their united front, though possible additional steps to pressure Russia remain unclear.
Moscow has warned relations with Washington are ‘on the verge of rupture,’ after Biden branded Putin a ‘war criminal’.
And it said it was abandoning talks with Japan, aimed at reaching a post-World War II peace treaty, citing Tokyo’s ‘openly hostile position.’
Zelensky has urged Europe to significantly dial up pressure on Moscow, saying the continent must cease all trade with Russia, but Germany has pushed back on a call for an EU embargo on Russian oil and gas.
At the Kremlin, spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned such an embargo would ‘have a very serious impact on the world energy market,’ where oil prices are already sky-high.
With the war edging closer to a stalemate, Zelensky has also appealed to China, urging it to ‘play an important role in’ ending the conflict.
The war has displaced around 10 million Ukrainians, with around a third becoming refugees, according to the UN, and sparked fears of famine elsewhere because Russia and Ukraine are both major agricultural exporters.
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