From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Arnaud Siad
The United Kingdom is set to announce a “major new military support package” for Ukraine at Thursday’s NATO and the G7 leaders’ meetings.
The support package will include 6,000 missiles, consisting of anti-tank and high explosive weapons, and £25 million (33 million $USD) in financial backing for the Ukrainian military, according to a Downing Street press release on Wednesday.
“This more than doubles the defensive lethal aid provided to date to more than 10,000 missiles, and comes on top of the £400 million (528 million $USD) the UK has committed in humanitarian and economic aid for the crisis,” the release read.
The UK will also provide an additional £4.1 (5.5 million $USD) for the BBC World Service “to tackle disinformation in Russia and Ukraine, as well as new financial and policing support for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes.”
“Vladimir Putin is already failing in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have shown themselves to be extraordinarily brave and tenacious in defending their homeland, in the face of an unprovoked onslaught,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the release.
“But we cannot and will not stand by while Russia grinds Ukraine’s towns and cities into dust. The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defenses as they turn the tide in this fight,” he added.
“One month into this crisis, the international community faces a choice. We can keep the flame of freedom alive in Ukraine, or risk it being snuffed out across Europe and the world”, Johnson said.
According to the Downing Street statement, the UK has “already provided over 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces, including Next-Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons Systems, or NLAWs, and Javelin missiles. The Government is also supplying Starstreak high-velocity anti-air missiles to help Ukrainians defend themselves against aerial bombings, as well as body armour, helmets and combat boots.”
Barrage of outgoing fire witnessed in northwest Kyiv
CNN teams on the ground witnessed a barrage of outgoing fire late Wednesday evening that occurred in northwest Kyiv.
Earlier on Wednesday, a senior US defense official told reporters that Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces back on the frontlines east of Kyiv.
Russian forces are about 55 kilometers (roughly 34 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the east, an increase of between 25 and 35 kilometers (roughly 15 to 22 miles) as compared to the same location yesterday, the official said.
To the northwest of Kyiv’s city center, Russian forces are “digging in, and they are establishing defensive positions,” the official said. They have not gotten any closer to Kyiv’s city center along this line, the official added. They remain 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the northwest.
French carmaker Renault announced in a statement Wednesday that it has suspended all activities at its Moscow factory. The announcement comes as Ukrainian leaders have called for a boycott against the company, accused Renault of “sponsoring Russia’s war machine.”
Just one day earlier, Renault had said it was resuming production for three days only.
Regarding its involvement in major Russian car manufacturer AvtoVAZ, owned by Renault, the French carmaker said that it’s “assessing the available options, taking into account the current environment, while acting responsibly towards its 45,000 employees in Russia.”
The also company said it is “already implementing the necessary measures to comply with international sanctions.”
AvtoVAZ’s brand Lada represented nearly 21% of the Russian market in 2021, according to Renault Group’s financial results.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called out major French companies, including Renault, by name for continuing their operations in Russia.
“Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and others must stop being the sponsors of Russia’s war machine,” Zelensky said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba went further, calling for a global boycott of the carmaker.
“Renault refuses to pull out of Russia. Not that it should surprise anyone when Renault supports a brutal war of aggression in Europe,” Kuleba said in a tweet. “But mistakes must come with a price, especially when repeated. I call on customers and businesses around the globe to boycott Group Renault.”
Renault declined to comment when asked by CNN if the decision to suspend its activities at the Moscow factory is connected to the strong words from Ukrainian leaders.
Renault said in the statement that the value of its consolidated intangible assets, property, plant, equipment, and goodwill in Russia amounted to above $2.41 billion at the end of 2021.
A Russian-proposed draft resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine failed to pass in the United Nations Security Council Wednesday evening.
Two countries voted in favor, zero countries voted against, and 13 countries, including the United States, abstained from the vote. Nine votes in favor were required for the resolution to pass.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke ahead of the vote, stating that Russia was once again trying to use the Security Council to “provide cover for its brutal actions.”
“It really is unconscionable that Russia would have the audacity to put forward a resolution asking the international community to solve a human crisis that Russia alone created,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “Russia does not care about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions, or the millions of lives and dreams the war has shattered. If they cared, they would stop fighting.”
The US ambassador added that Russia’s resolution “makes no mention of its role as the sole cause of this crisis. And our vote [of abstention] will show that we will play no part in that.”
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia also spoke ahead of the vote Wednesday evening, claiming that their draft resolution was “analogous to other draft humanitarian resolutions.”
A top Estonian official on Wednesday called on the international community to do more to ensure a “full defeat” of Russia in Ukraine, saying that “anything short” of that “would be destabilizing and escalatory.”
“Frankly, I cannot see a way for the Russians to really win on the battlefield in the classical sense,” Secretary General of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jonatan Vseviov said in an interview with CNN in Washington, DC, ahead of the NATO Leaders Summit Thursday.
“The question is whether we will be able to actually defeat this aggression,” he said. “If Putin comes away from this aggression with some gains, then he’s likely to attempt this again — against Ukraine, against others, he’s likely to move ahead. So he needs to be absolutely defeated.”
Vseviov also said NATO must prepare for the “new era” once the active phase of the war is over, calling for the military alliance to “build up military muscle in the east” to deny any future aggression.
He spoke of the need for NATO to make decisions about its defense posture for the “long haul,” telling CNN that such discussions will take place this week but he expects major decisions will not be made until the NATO Summit in June, noting that such decisions require detailed military planning.
“It’s clear that we cannot just continue with NATO with business as usual, with the same approach to defense and deterrence, NATO’s relations to Russia that we’ve had since the annexation of Crimea,” Vseviov said.
He said the alliance cannot take the risk that Russia “will miscalculate regarding collective defense,” so a “small, tripwire force — that international force that the Allies have had, for instance, in the Baltic states, is clearly no longer sufficient.”
Vseviov, a former Estonian ambassador to the US, met with key officials at the White House, Defense and State Department during his trip to Washington.
He said he could not predict how long the war will last, but said he believes the Ukrainian military will be able to hold on “for a long time,” but partner nations must continue to supply them with weaponry as the war wages on.
“The balance of military power clearly favors the aggressor, so we need to help the Ukrainians to hold on and do whatever is necessary to provide them with the relevant equipment and also humanitarian assistance,” Vseviov said, noting that it’s likely that “the level of brutality” unleashed by Russian forces against the civilian population “will go up dramatically” as the conflict continues.
Vseviov expressed skepticism about any diplomatic solutions proposed by Moscow.
“I think talk of this potential breakthrough in negotiations is a Russian game of smoke and mirrors to trap us or our to dissuade us — it’s a diplomatic trap to dissuade us from additional sanctions and additional military assistance,” Vseviov said.
“I will not believe any deal before I see it actually implemented on the ground. I think the Russian strategy has not changed. It is still to destroy Ukraine and the idea of a sovereign Ukraine and then move on to fundamentally alter European security architecture,” he added.
NATO’s thoughts turn to chemical weapons on the eve of extraordinary summit
From CNN’s Luke McGee
The day before NATO’S extraordinary summit takes place in Brussels, multiple sources have told CNN that a significant amount of time on Thursday will be spent discussing how the alliance should respond if Vladimir Putin uses chemical or biological weapons against Ukrainian citizens.
Multiple officials, who spoke on the condition of total anonymity, agreed that while the official NATO position that it will not get directly involved in this war will remain, chemical weapons could be a game changer as such an escalation would likely prompt the public in NATO nations to demand action.
Sources said that the alliance was sensitive to public thinking, and while it is likely that NATO will not issue redlines to Russia this week in terms of a response, we will likely see deliberate posturing from NATO, indicating its preparedness for chemical attacks.
That could mean a strengthening of the rapid deployment teams and special units that NATO already has in place to handle such threats. Such tools at NATO’s disposal have not previously been used to help a country outside of the alliance, but sources said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was prompting unprecedented conversations about how best NATO can support countries that are not members.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Wednesday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that President Biden will “consult on potential contingencies” surrounding the use of chemical or biological weapons, along with “how to deal with the rhetoric and the commentary coming out of Russia on this whole question of the potential use of nuclear weapons.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that the alliance would provide Ukrainians with protective kit, similar to the response from Western countries after Bashar-al Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in Syria.
Three NATO allies – France, the UK and the US – launched airstrikes against locations associated with Assad’s alleged April 2018 chemical attacks. Multiple Syrian activist groups documented the damage to Syrian civilians. The Syrian government denied it was responsible, and the Russian government said the attack was a “hoax.”
Officials told CNN that sending this combined message of preparedness to Russia along with the ambiguity of precisely what consequences might befall should hopefully deter Putin from committing a war crime that provided him few gains – even if only to defend himself from possible legal action in the future.