Joe Biden says West will not ‘splinter’ on support for Ukraine

·7-min read
Joe Biden says West will not ‘splinter’ on support for Ukraine

Joe Biden said that Western allies “have to stay together” against Russia as a summit of G7 leaders got underway in Germany.

The US president said: “Putin has been counting on it from the beginning that somehow the NATO and the G7 would splinter. But we haven’t and we’re not going to.”

He spoke at the start of the summit in Bavaria as Boris Johnson also urged the allies to stand firm over Ukraine.

They spoke hours after one person was killed and at least five people wounded on Sunday when Russia launched missile strikes that hit a residential building and a nursery in Kyiv.

Prior to the attack at around 6.30am Kyiv had not faced any such Russian airstrikes since June 5. Mr Biden condemned the fresh attacks on Kyiv as “barbarism”.

Russian artillery hit Kyiv’s central Shevchenkivskiy district, partially destroying a nine-storey apartment building and causing a fire, the city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app.

“There are people under the rubble,” Klitschko said. He added that several people had already been hospitalised.

“They (the rescuers) have pulled out a seven-year-old girl. She is alive. Now they’re trying to rescue her mother.”

Mr Klitschko said he believes it may have been “a symbolic attack” by Russia ahead of the G7 and this week’s Nato summit in Madrid.

Mr Johnson said Vladimir Putin must not be allowed to “hack” Russia’s neighbour apart with impunity, amid speculation about the appetite of Western leaders to continue to support Ukraine during a prolonged conflict.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

He warned that ‘the price of backing down’ against Russia will be ‘far, far higher’ than supporting Ukraine amid speculation about the appetite of Western leaders to continue to support Ukraine during a prolonged conflict.

The leaders are discussing at the summit that started on Sunday how to secure energy supplies and tackle inflation, aiming to keep the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from splintering the global coalition working to punish Moscow.

Mr Biden and Mr Johnson announced that the United States and other Group of Seven leading economies will ban imports of gold from Russia, the latest in a series of sanctions that the club of democracies hopes will further isolate Russia economically.

Mr Johnson said the ban on Russian gold will “directly hit Russian oligarchs and strike at the heart of Putin’s war machine”.

“Putin is squandering his dwindling resources on this pointless and barbaric war. He is bankrolling his ego at the expense of both the Ukrainian and Russian people,” Mr Johnson said. “We need to starve the Putin regime of its funding.”

Joe Biden speaking at the summit (AP)
Joe Biden speaking at the summit (AP)

Ahead of a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Johnson was asked whether France and Germany are doing enough over Ukraine.

The PM praised the Germans without mentioning France.

“Just look at what the Germans alone have done,” he said.

I never believed in my lifetime that I would see a German chancellor stepping up in the way that Olaf Scholz has and sending weaponry to help the Ukrainians to protect themselves.

“He’s made huge, huge strides. We have 4% of our gas from Russia, in Germany it’s 40%.

“They’re facing real, real pressures, they’re having to source energy from elsewhere. But they’re doing it. They’re making the effort. They’re making the sacrifice.”

He said the Germans realise “the price of freedom is worth paying”, despite the domestic consequences.

Mr Johnson added: “The consequences of what’s happening for the world are tough, but the price of backing down, the price of allowing Putin to succeed, to hack off huge parts of Ukraine, to continue with his programme of conquest, that price will be far, far higher and everybody here understands that.”

A damaged residential building, hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)
A damaged residential building, hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)

In talks with Mr Macron, the Prime Minister “stressed any attempt to settle the conflict now will only cause enduring instability and give Putin licence to manipulate both sovereign countries and international markets in perpetuity”.

Earlier this month, Mr Macron insisted it would be for Ukraine to decide the terms of any peace negotiation with Mr Putin, having previously suggested Russia must not be humiliated.

In talks with Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Mr Johnson said: “Ukraine is on a knife-edge and we need to tip the balance of the war in their favour.

“That means providing Ukraine with the defensive capabilities, training and intelligence they need to repel the Russian advance.”

Ukraine Member of Parliament Oleksiy Goncharenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app that “according to prelim data 14 missiles were launched against Kyiv region and Kyiv” on Sunday morning.

At another site about 400 metres away, a Reuters photographer saw a large blast crater by a playground in a private nursery that had smashed windows. Some privately-held storage garages in the area were completely destroyed.

In the city of Cherkasy, about 100 miles south-east of Kyiv, one person was killed and five injured in strikes by two Russian rockets, regional governor Ihor Taburets said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on G7 nations to impose further sanctions on Moscow and to provide more heavy weapons.

A Ukrainian air force spokesperson said between four to six long-range missiles were fired from Russian bombers more than a thousand kilometres away in the southern Russian region of Astrakhan. He said some of the incoming missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defences.

Up to four explosions shook central Kyiv early on Sunday. Hours later there were two more explosions in Kyiv, but there was no immediate sign of damage, suggesting inbound missiles could have been shot down.

It came as British defence chiefs said Russia’s capture of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine marks a “significant achievement” in its war objectives.

The latest Ministry of Defence (MoD) update revealed that most Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from the war-torn city in the Donbas.

It read: “In April 2020, Russia revised its immediate campaign plan from aiming to occupy the majority of Ukraine, to a more focused offensive in the Donbas.

“Russia’s capture of the city is a significant achievement within this reduced objective. The settlement was a major industrial centre and it occupies a strategic position on the Siverskyi Donets River.”

However, the MoD adds it is “only one of several challenging objectives Russia will need to achieve to occupy the whole of the Donbas region”.

“These include advancing on the major centre of Kramatorsk and securing the main supply routes to Donetsk city,” it adds.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk province, said on Friday that Ukrainian troops were retreating from Sieverodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and house-to-house fighting.

He confirmed on Saturday that the city had fallen to Russian and separatist fighters, who he said were now trying to blockade the neighboring city of Lysychansk from the south. The city lies across the river just to the west of Sievierodonetsk.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, as saying Russian troops and separatist fighters had entered Lysychansk and that fighting was taking place in the heart of the city. There was no immediate comment on the claim from the Ukrainian side.

Lysychansk and Sieverodonetsk have been the focal point of a Russian offensive aimed at capturing all of the Donbas and destroying the Ukrainian military defending it - the most capable and battle-hardened segment of the country’s armed forces.

Capturing Lysychansk would give Russian forces control of every major settlement in the province, a significant step toward Russia’s aim of capturing the entire Donbas.

The Russians and separatists control about half of Donetsk, the second province in the Donbas.

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