Ukraine conflict at 'critical point' – Biden
US President Joe Biden has described the Ukraine conflict as entering a crucial phase, justifying Washington’s latest pledge to send more heavy weapons to Kiev. His statement came after Ukraine rejected Russia’s proposal for an Orthodox Christmas ceasefire.
“Right now, the war in Ukraine is at a critical point. We have to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians resist Russian aggression, and Russia is not attempting to slow up,” Biden said during a government meeting in the White House on Thursday. “Earlier this afternoon, I had a long discussion with [German Chancellor] Olaf Scholz and – about Ukraine – and our alliances in Europe and the EU. We have a much larger contingent of countries that share our view, including Japan and others.”
Biden highlighted Washington’s recent decision to supply Kiev with Bradley Fighting Vehicles and a Patriot air defense missile battery, in a bid to shore up Ukraine’s military capabilities. “They function well, and they’re helping a lot,” Biden said.
Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February, citing the need to protect the people of Donbass and Kiev’s failure to implement the 2014-2015 Minsk peace accords. Western powers responded by imposing sweeping sanctions on Moscow and sending a constant flow of weaponry to Ukraine, despite the Kremlin’s warnings that foreign arms will only prolong the conflict.
Kiev and its Western backers have rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to observe a 36-hour ceasefire from Friday noon to midnight on Saturday, in order to allow Orthodox Christians, who make up the majority in Ukraine and Russia, to celebrate Christmas.
Putin’s proposal for a ceasefire came after Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, urged all sides to end hostilities during the holiday.
In a video address on Thursday, Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed that Moscow was planning to use the ceasefire “to stop the advance of our boys in Donbass for a bit” and to buy time to deploy more troops and equipment to the frontline. Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department, dismissed Russia’s ceasefire offer as “cynical.”
However, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the ceasefire proposal, according to his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.