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US President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, the US, April 28 2022. Picture: SAMUEL CORUM/BLOOMBERG
US President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, the US, April 28 2022. Picture: SAMUEL CORUM/BLOOMBERG

Lviv/Berlin — US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that the crisis in Ukraine is a global issue which heightens the importance of maintaining international order, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Biden’s comments delivered at the opening of the “Quad” meeting of Indo-Pacific leaders in Tokyo come a day after he broke with convention and volunteered US military support for Taiwan, the self-governed island claimed by China.

“This is more than just a European issue. It’s a global issue,” Biden said of the crisis in Ukraine at the Quad meeting of the US, Japan, India and Australia.

Biden emphasised Washington would stand with its allies and push for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. “International law, human rights must always be defended regardless of where they’re violated in the world,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told global business leaders in Davos on Monday that the world must increase sanctions against Russia to deter other countries from using “brute force” to achieve their aims.

The EU is likely to agree on an embargo on Russian oil imports “within days”, its biggest member Germany has said, as Moscow said its economic ties with China would grow amid its isolation by the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Many of the EU’s 27 member states are heavily reliant on Russian energy, prompting criticism from Kyiv that the bloc has not moved quickly enough to halt supplies.

Hungary is demanding energy investment before it agrees to an embargo, clashing with EU states pushing for swift approval. The EU has offered up to €2bn to central and eastern nations lacking non-Russian supply.

“We will reach a breakthrough within days,” Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, told broadcaster ZDF.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin would focus on developing ties with China as economic links with the US and Europe were cut.

“If they (the West) want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, then we will seriously consider whether we will need it or not,” he said in a speech, according to a transcript on the foreign ministry’s website. “Now that the West has taken a dictator’s position, our economic ties with China will grow even faster.”

Prisoner exchange

Russia’s three-month long invasion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen 6.5-million people flee abroad, turned entire cities into rubble and prompted the unprecedented imposition of Western sanctions on Russia.

Zelensky on Monday called on Ukraine’s allies to put pressure on Moscow for a prisoner exchange.

“The exchange of people, this is a humanitarian matter today and a very political decision that depends on the support of many states,” Zelensky said in a question-and-answer video link with the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We do not need the Russian servicemen, we only need ours,” Zelensky said. “We are ready for an exchange even tomorrow.”

Russia sent thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 for what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise its neighbour and root out dangerous nationalists — claims dismissed by Kyiv and Western countries as false pretexts for a land grab.

Having captured the port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine last week after a months-long siege, Russian forces now control a largely unbroken swathe of the east and south. They are trying to encircle Ukrainian forces and fully capture the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces that make up the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow backs separatist forces.

A total of 12,500 Russians were trying to seize Luhansk, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said on Telegram. The town of Sievierodonetsk is being destroyed, but Ukraine has forced Russian troops out of Toshkivka to its south, Gaidai said.

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told local television that shelling was occurring along the front line, with the coal mining town of Avdiivka being hit round the clock.

Russian forces fired on 38 communities in Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday, killing seven and injuring six, Ukraine’s military command said.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the information.

Zelensky revealed Ukraine’s worst military losses from a single attack of the war on Monday, saying 87 people had been killed last week when Russian forces struck a barracks at a training base in the north.

Denmark’s pledge to send Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a launcher to Ukraine, announced by the US on Monday, is the first sign since the Russian invasion that Kyiv will receive US-made weapons that extend its striking range. The Harpoons, made by Boeing, could be used to push the Russian navy away from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, allowing exports of grain and other agricultural products to resume.

In the first of what could be many war crimes trials arising from the invasion, a court in Kyiv sentenced a young Russian tank commander to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian. Ukraine is investigating more than 13,000 alleged Russian war crimes, according to the website of its prosecutor general.

Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.

Reuters

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