RUSSIA,UKRAINE, BELGIUM: Ukrainian forces fought off continuing Russian efforts to occupy Mariupol and claimed to have retaken a strategic suburb of Kyiv on Tuesday, mounting a defense so dogged that it is stoking fears Russia’s Vladimir Putin will escalate the war to new heights.
“Putin’s back is against the wall,” said US President Joe Biden, who is heading to Europe this week to meet with allies. “And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ.”
Biden reiterated accusations that Putin is considering resorting to using chemical or biological weapons, though Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US has seen no evidence to suggest that such an escalation is imminent.
The warnings came as attacks continued in and around Kyiv and Mariupol, and people escaped the battered and besieged port city.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on Tuesday it would like the ongoing negotiations with Kyiv aimed at ending Russia’s military action in Ukraine to have more substance.
“There is some kind of process happening. We would like more active and substantial (talks),” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Russia’s position was “well-known to the Ukrainian side” because Moscow handed over its demands in written form “many days ago”, Peskov said. “We would like a more substantial and swift answer.”
The two sides are currently holding negotiations remotely after several rounds of talks between delegations meeting on the border between Belarus and Ukraine. So far, the talks have yielded little progress, with both sides blaming the other, and none have been at the presidential level.
Russia would only use nuclear weapons in the context of the Ukraine conflict if it were facing an “existential threat,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN International Tuesday.
“We have a concept of domestic security, and it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” Peskov said. “So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.”
Meanwhile, In a nightly address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces blocked a humanitarian convoy attempting to reach Mariupol and also took rescue workers and bus drivers captive.
“We are trying to organize stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling, or deliberate terror,” Zelenskyy said in his address.
The President added that Russians had agreed to the route ahead of time.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to address a special NATO summit Thursday discussing the Russian invasion of his country, an official said.
“President Zelensky is invited to address the NATO summit via video link,” a NATO official said Tuesday. “This will be an opportunity for allied leaders to hear directly from President Zelensky about the dire situation facing the people of Ukraine because of Russia’s aggression.” – THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, INDIAN EXPRESS, NDTV