MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday delivered a nuclear warning to the West over Ukraine, suspending a landmark nuclear arms control treaty, announcing new strategic systems had been put on combat duty and warning that Moscow could resume nuclear tests.
Speaking nearly a year to the day since ordering an invasion that has triggered the biggest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, Putin said Russia would achieve its war aims and accused the West of trying to destroy Russia.
"The elites of the West do not hide their purpose. But they also cannot fail to realise that it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield," a defiant Putin told his country's political and military elite.
Cautioning the United States that it was stoking the war into a global conflict, Putin said that Russia was suspending participation in the New START Treaty, the last major arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington.
Signed by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2010, the treaty caps the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy. It was due to expire in 2026.
"I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty," said Putin.
The Russian leader said, without citing evidence, that some people in Washington were thinking about resuming nuclear testing. Russia's defence ministry and nuclear corporation should therefore be ready to test Russian nuclear weapons if necessary, he said.
"Of course, we will not do this first. But if the United States conducts tests, then we will. No one should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed," Putin said.
"A week ago, I signed a decree on putting new ground-based strategic systems on combat duty. Are they going to stick their nose in there too, or what?"
It was not immediately clear which ground-based systems had been put on combat duty. Putin said Ukraine had sought to strike a facility deep inside Russia where some of its nuclear bombers are based, a reference to the Engels air base.
Russia and the United States have vast arsenals of nuclear weapons left over from the Cold War and remain, by far, the biggest nuclear powers. Between them, they hold 90% of the world's nuclear warheads.
The New START Treaty limited both sides to 1,550 warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. Both sides met the central limits by 2018.
In essence, Putin is warning that he can dismantle the architecture of nuclear arms control - including the big powers' moratorium on nuclear testing - unless the West backs off in Ukraine.
China, whose top diplomat Wang Yi arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, has cautioned against any nuclear escalation to the Ukraine war.
The Ukraine conflict is by far the biggest bet by a Kremlin chief since at least the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union - and a gamble Western leaders such as U.S. President Joe Biden, who visited Kyiv on Monday, say he must lose.
Russian forces have suffered three major battlefield reversals since the war began but still control around one fifth of Ukraine. Tens of thousands of men have been killed on both sides.
Speaking for one hour and 45 minutes below a large emblem bearing the two-headed eagle of Russia, and flanked by a total of eight tricolour Russian flags, Putin vowed to continue until he achieved his aims in Ukraine.
Putin accused the U.S.-led NATO alliance of fanning the flames of the conflict in the mistaken belief that it could defeat Moscow in a global confrontation.
"They intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation. This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country," Putin said.
The United States says it is concerned Beijing may be considering supplying weapons to Russia, a step that would risk a potential escalation of the Ukraine war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance on the other.
Besides the promise to continue the war and warnings to the West of a global confrontation, Putin also sought to justify the war, saying it had been forced on Russia and that he understood the pain of the families of those who had fallen in battle.
The West and Ukraine reject that narrative, and say NATO expansion eastwards since the Cold War ended is no justification for what they say is an imperial-style land grab doomed to failure.
"The people of Ukraine have become the hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western overlords, who have effectively occupied this country in the political, military and economic sense," Putin said.
"They intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation. This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country."
Russia would never yield to Western attempts to divide its society, said the 70-year-old Kremlin chief, adding that a majority of Russians support the war.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Nick Macfie)
Torrential rain has triggered flooding and landslides in coastal areas of Brazil’s southeast, killing at least 36 people and displacing hundreds of others.
In Sao Paulo state, television and social media footage from the town of Sao Sebastiao on Sunday showed entire neighbourhoods under water, debris from hillside houses swept away by mud, as well as flooded highways and cars destroyed by fallen trees.
The town, 200km (124 miles) north of the city of Sao Paulo and where many people from the capital spend the holiday weekend ahead of the Christian festival of Lent, was one of the hardest hit, as a record 600mm (24 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours, city officials said.
At least 35 people died in San Sebastiao, according to a statement from the Sao Paolo state government. A seven year old girl was also killed in the neighbouring town of Ubatuba, news reports said.
Sao Paulo state Governor Tarcisio de Freitas declared a state of emergency in five towns along the coast.
His government said 566 people had been displaced or made homeless.
Carnival events were cancelled in Sao Sebastiao, Ubatuba, Ilhabela and Bertioga.
“Our rescue teams are not managing to get to several location; it is a chaotic situation,” said Felipe Augusto, Sao Sebastiao’s mayor.
“We are working at nearly 50 residences that collapsed under the force of the water and there are still people buried,” he told GloboNews.
More than 100 firefighters were working on the scene, with the aid of helicopters, according to local media.
Amid the loss and destruction, authorities said a boy aged two was rescued from a sea of mud, as was a woman who was giving birth.
Weather forecasts show heavy rains are set to continue in Sao Paulo’s coastal area, challenging rescue workers and raising the prospect of a higher death toll.
The federal government ordered the mobilisation of several ministries to assist victims, restore infrastructure and start reconstruction work.
Operations at the port of Santos, South America’s largest, were meanwhile interrupted amid gusts of wind exceeding 55 kilometres per hour (34 miles per hour) and waves of more than one metre high on Saturday, according to a local news outlet.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on his social media account he will visit the main affected areas on Monday.
Lula said government at all levels would work to “take care of the injured, look for missing people and restore roads, energy and telecommunications”.
The US will back Ukraine in its fight against Russia for "as long as it takes", US President Joe Biden has said on an unannounced visit to Kyiv.
"We have every confidence you're going to continue to prevail," he said.
Mr Biden's first trip to Ukraine as president came days before the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.
He said that Russia's President Vladimir Putin had been "dead wrong" to think Russia could outlast Ukraine and its Western allies.
He met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the pair visited a memorial to soldiers who have died in the nine years since Russia annexed Crimea and its proxy forces captured parts of the eastern Donbas region.
Mr Biden's presence was intended to reaffirm America's "unwavering commitment to Ukraine's democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity", according to a White House statement.
He had taken a 10-hour train journey from Poland to reach Kyiv in secret, later returning to Poland. Russia was informed about the trip a few hours before President Biden's departure for "deconfliction purposes", a US official said.
After the visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new package of security assistance for Ukraine valued at $450m (£373m), including ammunition for howitzers and the Himars rocket system, Javelin missiles and air surveillance radars.
The US will also provide Kyiv with an extra $10m in emergency assistance to maintain Ukraine's energy infrastructure, Mr Blinken said.
A new wave of sanctions against individuals and companies "that are trying to evade or backfill Russia's war machine" will also be announced later this week.
Mr Zelensky said Ukraine's victory over Russia depended on resolve and that he saw such determination in Mr Biden.
"It is now and in Ukraine that the fate of the world order, which is based on rules, on humanity... is being decided," he said.
He also said that the two leaders had discussed the possibility of sending other weapons. Mr Zelensky has repeatedly called for F-16 fighter jets, something the US and other allies have so far stopped short of approving.
Commenting on the trip, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said failure would befall those who, as she put it, "sold their souls to the Americans".
In a scene that added drama to the most high-profile visit to Ukraine since the war began, air raid sirens wailed while President Biden and Mr Zelensky were in St Michael's Cathedral in central Kyiv. The sirens sound regularly in the city.
While other world leaders have visited Ukraine over the past year, the US president's appearance in Kyiv during a war in which American soldiers are not fighting is a show of unity at a time when Russia says Western support for Ukraine is waning.
The visit was welcomed by Ukrainians in Kyiv.
"I'm so grateful for his support - it means so much to us," Roksoliana Gera told the BBC. "I appreciate his courage, that he took on this challenge and came to show the support of the American nation."
Oleksandra Soloviova said the visit showed Russia that "the US supports us and will continue supporting us, with sanctions and military equipment".
The Ukrainian president's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said the visit had been strategic as well as historic. "Many issues are being solved and those that have stalled will be accelerated," he said.
The US is one of Ukraine's biggest allies and the state department has so far announced $24.9bn in military assistance.
In January, Mr Biden announced that the US would send 31 battle tanks and longer-range missiles are also on their way.
However, there is a growing political divide in the US over the amount of aid Kyiv should receive in future.
President Biden's visit to Kyiv came ahead of a three-day visit to Poland where he will meet the country's President, Andrzej Duda, and east European members of the Nato military alliance.
In another development, China's foreign minister has said Beijing is deeply worried by the escalation of the war in Ukraine and the danger it could spiral out of control.
Source : https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/2/18/earthquake-death-toll-surpasses-46000-in-syria-turkey
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took a helicopter tour Sunday of one of the provinces worst-affected by the Feb. 6 earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria and pledged a further $100 million in aid to help the region.
“This is going to be a long-term effort,” Blinken said at Incirlik Air Base, a joint U.S.-Turkish facility that has coordinated the distribution of disaster aid. “The search and rescue, unfortunately, is coming to an end. The recovery is on, and then there will be a massive rebuilding operation.”
President Joe Biden announced $85 million for Turkey and Syria days after the earthquake that has killed more than 44,000 people in the two countries. The U.S. has also sent a search and rescue team, medical supplies and equipment.
The additional aid includes $50 million in emergency refugee and migration funds and $50 million in humanitarian assistance, Blinken said.
The secretary of state is making his first trip to NATO ally Turkey since he took office two years ago. Blinken arrived at Incirlik Air Base, near Adana, on Sunday after attending the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
He toured Turkey’s toured Hatay province from the air with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. He was expected to meet with U.S. and Turkish service personnel, as well as Turkish military families affected by the earthquake.
“When you see the extent of the damage, the number of buildings, the number of apartments, the number of homes that have been destroyed, it’s going to take a massive effort to rebuild,” the top U.S. diplomat said after the helicopter tour.
“The most important thing right now is to get assistance to people who need it, to get them through the winter and to get them back on their feet,” Blinken said as troops nearby unloaded boxes of aid… We’ll stick with it until we get the job done.”
Incirlik, home to the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing, has been a crucial logistics center for aid distribution. Supplies from around the world have been flown into the base and sent by truck and helicopter to those in need, including in difficult to reach villages.
Blinken is set to fly to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, later Sunday for discussions with Turkish officials on Monday, including an anticipated meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As well as the effects of the earthquake, Blinken is expected to discuss Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO, which Turkey has delayed.
Source : https://globalnews.ca/news/9498175/turkey-earthquake-blinken/
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