Russia compares sanctions to war as UK says Putin preparing to send 1,000 mercenaries to Ukraine | Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s main spokesman has said that sanctions on trade and oligarchs were akin to “total war” against Russia, and that the west has pushed the Kremlin “into the corner” with NATO expansion, as officials prepare for the resumption of peace talks with Ukraine on Tuesday.

Dmitry Peskov said in an interview on American television that the punitive sanctions leveled against Russia were “quite unfriendly” and made the country feel as it were at war with the US and its western allies.

The interview came amid more claims from UK and Ukrainian military intelligence that Russia’s war effort is in serious trouble.

As the Russian and Ukrainian sides were due to meet in Turkey for a new round of negotiations, the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Russia was expected to bolster its flagging war effort by sending more than 1,000 mercenaries from the private Wagner military group into eastern Ukraine as the Kremlin continues to suffer heavy losses.

It was highly likely that Russia has been forced to redeploy Wagner personnel from Africa and Syria to eastern Ukraine, the MoD said.

Peskov said Russia was “afraid of NATO getting closer to our borders with its military infrastructure. Please take care of that. Do not push us into the corner. No. ”

He described sanctions as “enemy, enemy-like for us. We entered the phase, the phase of a total war. And we in Russia, we will feel ourselves amongst war, because western European countries, United States, Canada, Australia, they actually – they actually – they are leading war against us in trade, in economy, in seizing our properties, in seizing our funds, in blocking our financial relations. ”

Early on Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for sanctions packages to be “effective and substantial” and took aim at countries that were taking “passive sanctions” against Russia. “There should be no ‘suspended’ sanctions packages – that if the Russian troops do something, then there will be some answer …” Zelenskiy said.

'Fear always makes you an accomplice': Zelenskiy warns against soft sanctions - video
‘Fear always makes you an accomplice’: Zelenskiy warns against soft sanctions – video

“Ukrainians should not die just because someone cannot find enough courage to hand over the necessary weapons to Ukraine,” he said. “Fear always makes you an accomplice.”

He also urged countries to have the courage to keep supplying weapons to Ukraine without fear of possible retaliation by Moscow.

Zelenskiy hailed military success in Irpin and in parts of Kyiv, and said he had been engaged in a “very active diplomatic day” during which he had spoken to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi and the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.

When Peskov was asked about whether Russia would use nuclear weapons in the conflict, he said “no one is thinking” about such a strategy and that Russia would complete its military objectives.

Questions about Russia’s military capability were raised on Tuesday by Ukrainian intelligence, which claimed that Putin was compensating for his “weakened, disoriented” forces by trying to destroy cities through “indiscriminate artillery fire and rocket-bomb attacks”.

The damning intelligence assessments from the UK and Ukraine came as Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are due to meet for peace talks in Turkey on Tuesday where the main issues on the table are expected to be Ukraine’s neutrality and the status of contested areas in the east. Kyiv has made it clear that it will make no concessions on territorial integrity.

However, the opening of talks could be overshadowed by reports that the Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich, and a Ukrainian peace negotiator suffered symptoms consistent with poisoning earlier this month, according to a source with direct knowledge of the incident.

Abramovich was taking part in informal peace negotiations in Kyiv early in March when he began to feel ill, the source told the Guardian. Ukrainian MP Rustem Umerov was also part of the negotiation, and was also reportedly affected too.

Both men, who consumed only chocolate and water, were treated in Istanbul for symptoms which reportedly included loss of sight and peeling skin. The account backs up the claims of a potential poisoning first reported in the Wall Street Journal and by the investigative outlet Bellingcat.

Putin’s failure to make significant gains in the early weeks of the war and fierce local resistance has bolstered Zelenskiy’s government. Ukraine’s president will be further encouraged by news that Ukrainian troops have regained control of the Kyiv commuter town of Irpin, scene of heavy fighting since the early days of the invasion. Ukraine’s military intelligence said its forces continued to defend Kyiv and other towns including Motyzhyn, Lisne, Kapitanivka and Dmytrivka.

Ukrainian forces “continue to maintain the circular defense of the city of Mariupol and defend and deter the advance of the enemy in the Chernihiv region” the report added, although UK intelligence said the Russians were gaining ground in Mariupol.

According to the mayor of the besieged southern city, almost 5,000 people, including about 210 children, have been killed in Mariupol since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. Vadym Boichenko said Mariupol was on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe and must be completely evacuated, with about 160,000 civilians were trapped in the city without power.

His warning came as Amnesty International said on Tuesday that Russia’s assault on Ukraine is similar to its actions in the Syrian war, raising concerns of “war crimes” as the civilian toll grows a month after Moscow’s invasion.

“What is happening in Ukraine is a repetition of what we have seen in Syria,” Agnes Callamard, secretary general of the global rights watchdog, told AFP.

Joe Biden on Monday defended his unscripted remarks in Poland at the weekend that Putin “cannot remain in power”, saying it reflected his own moral outrage, not an administration policy shift.

“I was not then nor am I now articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I felt and I make no apologies, ”the US president said. Biden added that he was “not walking anything back” by clarifying the remark. Asked whether the remark would spur a negative response from Putin, Biden said: “I do not care what he thinks … He’s going to do what he’s going to do”.

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