MOskau/Kiev (dpa) According to Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the danger of a nuclear escalation in the Ukraine war has decreased. “Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. In response to the international community marking a red line,” Scholz told Funke Mediengruppe newspapers and French newspaper Ouest-France.
“During my visit to Beijing, Chinese President Xi and I jointly expressed that nuclear weapons should not be used. Shortly thereafter, the G20 states reaffirmed this stance.” When asked whether the danger of a nuclear escalation had been averted, the SPD politician said: “For the moment, we have taken a stake against it.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated that Russia’s nuclear weapons are used solely to protect the country and its allies, and as a deterrent. Russia’s military strategy provides for the use of weapons of mass destruction in response to an attack. “That means if a blow is struck against us, then we hit back in response,” Putin said.
Putin: War can last a long time
Putin does not rule out a long war against the neighboring country. “Of course, it can be a long process,” Putin said at a meeting with representatives of a human rights council he set up. He also explained that half of the approximately 300,000 reservists drafted in the past few weeks are stationed in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported on continued heavy Russian attacks on the city of Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk Oblast. The EU Commission proposed a new package of sanctions against Moscow.
The Kremlin chief also said that half of the 300,000 mobilized Russian reservists are already deployed in the combat zone in Ukraine. The remaining 150,000 men are housed as “combat reserves” at military bases, Putin said.
Putin had ordered the mobilization in September in the face of a serious defeat by his army in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, but this triggered real panic in his own country. Hundreds of thousands of Russians fled abroad. The measure has now been officially completed. However, many Russians do not trust the Kremlin and fear that they or their loved ones will still be drafted – especially since Putin’s government had repeatedly denied a mobilization as ordered in September. According to Western intelligence services, many of the Russians drafted to the front have already been killed.
Zelenskyy on fighting in eastern Ukraine: “Every meter counts”
Selenskyj reported on ongoing heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine. Ten people were killed in recent Russian attacks on the city of Kurakhove in the Donetsk region, he said in his daily video address on Thursday night. Regarding the situation around the small town of Bakhmut, which the Russians have been trying to take for months, he said: “There is a very tough confrontation there. Every meter counts.” He also thanked all Ukrainian soldiers who opposed the attackers.
EU Commission proposes new sanctions package against Russia
The European Commission wants to put further pressure on Russia with a ninth package of sanctions. “Russia continues to bring death and devastation to Ukraine,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter. The new package aims to add almost 200 people and organizations to the sanctions list.
According to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, it is about members of the Russian military, the defense industry and the government. Among other things, those responsible for the rocket attacks on Ukraine and the theft of Ukrainian grain are to be hit.