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Russia warns of direct clash with West

New military assistance to Ukraine will not change front-line situation: Kremlin

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-24 09:14

The Russian flag flies on the dome of the Kremlin Senate building behind Spasskaya Tower, in central Moscow, Russia, May 4, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

A new US package of military aid to Ukraine will not change the situation on the front lines, where Russia has the upper hand, the Kremlin said on Monday.

The United States House of Representatives approved on Saturday more than $61 billion in new aid for Ukraine, which has been held up in Congress for months, causing Kyiv's forces to run low on ammunition.

"The Russian armed forces are improving their positions at the front. … The money allocated and the weapons that will be supplied will not change this dynamic," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"They will lead to new victims on the Ukrainian side. More Ukrainians will die, Ukraine will suffer greater losses."

He said the US defense industry will be the real beneficiary of the package.

"We also recognize that most of this money will remain in the US. The US will become richer and will receive additional dividends by providing assistance to Ukraine," Peskov said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Washington on Sunday to quickly turn the bill into law and proceed with the actual transfer of weapons, saying long-range arms and air defense systems were top priorities.

"I think this support will really strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and we will have a chance for victory," Zelensky said.

The Pentagon said it could get weapons moving to Ukraine within days if the Senate and President Joe Biden give final approval to the aid package. But experts and Ukrainian lawmakers said it could take weeks for the assistance to reach troops, giving Russia more time to degrade Ukrainian defenses, The Associated Press reported.

Western officials and experts agree that artillery rounds, precision-guided missiles and air defenses will change the military outlook for Ukraine.

Ukrainian commanders have complained about dire ammunition shortages since late December. By February, heads of artillery units in several regions said they had less than 10 percent of the supplies they needed as Kyiv rushed to economize shells.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned on Monday that US, British and French military support for Ukraine has pushed the world to the brink of a direct clash between the world's biggest nuclear powers that could end in catastrophe.

'Strategic defeat'

Lavrov said the new military aid to Ukraine showed that the US and NATO were obsessed with the idea of inflicting "strategic defeat" on Russia.

Lavrov said the support for Ukraine was putting the US and its allies on the verge of a direct military clash with Russia.

Meanwhile, European Union countries possessing Patriot air defense systems gave no clear signal on Monday whether they might be willing to supply them to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries.

Only Germany has come forward with a single Patriot missile battery in answer to Ukraine's latest request.

At a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers, Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said the Netherlands is "looking at every kind of possibility at the moment" and is offering financial support to a German initiative to help Ukraine bolster its air defenses and buy more drones.

Asked why the Netherlands is reluctant to send some of its Patriot systems, Slot said: "We are looking again if we can deplete our store of what we still have, but that will be difficult."

Patriots take a long time to make — as long as two years, some estimates suggest — so countries are reluctant to give them up and leave themselves exposed. Germany had 12, but it is now supplying three to Ukraine. Poland, which borders Ukraine, has two and needs them for its own defenses, AP said.

More than two years into Russia's special military operation, Moscow claimed Ukraine has lost territory in the eastern part of the country and Russia has ramped up its bombardment of cities and towns behind the front lines amid a slowdown in Western military assistance.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that its forces had taken control of the village of Novomykhailivka, nearly 40 kilometers southwest of Donetsk city, the second advance it has announced in two days.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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