Russia announces intercontinental ballistic missile test as Ukraine sticks to Mariupol

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MUKASHEVEVO, Ukraine – Russia and the West traded diplomatic threats and insults on Wednesday, as another Russian deadline to hand over the key port city of Mariupol passed without a move, and Russian forces continued to bombard a wide swathe of the country’s east.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that it had successfully conducted the first test of a new ICBM that President Vladimir Putin said was “capable of overcoming all missile defense systems” and would make those “trying to threaten our country” think twice.

Putin also claimed, according to Russian news reports, that the nuclear-capable RS-28 Sarmat missile was made using “exclusively” domestically manufactured parts – a clear snapshot of Western sanctions, which have prevented Moscow from acquiring critical components for other weapons systems. It relied on it in its attack on Ukraine.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States, in line with existing arms control provisions, had been notified of the test ahead of schedule. But Putin’s comments were a reminder of his nuclear-armed nation’s military might, and his potential willingness to escalate a brutal war that does not seem to be coming to an end.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on April 20 that Russia had properly notified the United States about its recent ICBM test. (Video: Reuters)

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After the Ukrainian invasion began, a test launch of the US Minuteman III missile was delayed when US officials said they did not want Russia to misinterpret such a display of firepower, or use it as a justification for escalating hostilities in Ukraine.

In Washington, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell, along with several other world leaders, withdrew from a closed-door meeting of the Group of Twenty as Russian officials began speaking, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because political sensitivity.

Earlier in the week, a Treasury official said Yellen would use the meeting to “express our strong condemnation of Putin’s brutality” and to make clear that such gatherings “are intended for countries that demonstrate respect for the fundamental principles of peace and security around the world.” Globalism.”

Wimbledon on Wednesday Tennis players banned of Russia and Belarus from playing in the first annual tournament starting in June due to the invasion of Ukraine, a decision that will affect two of the world’s best players. According to the All England Club, Russia’s second-ranked Daniil Medvedev, and fourth-ranked Belarusian Arina Sabalenka, will not be allowed to play.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov quickly condemned this action, telling reporters that the players “once again became hostages of political conspiracies.”

Russian skaters were banned from the world championships in March, and Russian international teams and clubs were banned from football competitions by the sport’s governing body. Despite calling the Russian invasion “reprehensible”, the ATP called Wimbledon’s decision “unfair” and said it “potentially set a devastating precedent for the game”.

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In the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces are taking a last stand, their commander issued a dire warning on Wednesday, saying his fighters holed up at the Azovstal steel plant “Death underground.” In audio messages sent to the Washington Post, Major Serhiy Volina of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, while still resisting an advanced and much larger Russian force, appealed to other nations to help them secure an exit.

What is happening in Mariupol, the Ukrainian city under Russian siege?

“While the world was sleeping, in Mariupol, men are dying,” said Volina. “They suffer losses. They are being bombarded with heavy bombs … being torn apart by artillery, and they are dying underground – the wounded and the people who live there.”

His statements came amid successive dates for the Kremlin’s surrender. It was all rejected by the defenders. In their latest move, Russia demanded Ukrainian forces in Mariupol They lay down their guns and walk out of the steel mill by 2 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) Wednesday or face a bitter end.

Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported on Wednesday that the “purge operation in Mariupol” was “nearing its end”, citing a statement from a pro-Moscow separatist group in the region. A humanitarian corridor planned to evacuate thousands of women, children and elderly people who are still in the city, according to the governor of the Donetsk region, to the northeast of Mariupol, has also faltered. new Videos The city’s recorders show the bodies of more than a dozen civilians lying in the streets.

Full control of Mariupol would tighten the grip of Russian forces along the coast of the Sea of ​​Azov and help form a land bridge between Russian-occupied areas along the border and Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Western defense officials said Putin is determined to take Mariupol and advance into the Donbass – the vast region in eastern Ukraine bordering Russia – by May 9, a holiday in Russia known as Victory Day to commemorate the surrender of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II.

Determined to at least stop the Russian offensive, Western backers have continued to pledge their support, even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and commanders on the ground have said they need more.

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According to the Pentagon, an influx of aircraft parts sent by the West in the past few weeks has made at least 20 more combat aircraft available to the Ukrainian Air Force. A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity under conditions set by the Pentagon, declined whether all of the repaired planes were Soviet-origin MiGs, part of Ukraine’s arsenal.

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Earlier in the conflict, there was also significant pressure, primarily from Poland, to increase the Ukrainian fleet with more of these warplanes, an offer that the United States thwarted and called an escalation. This week, the Pentagon official noted that another offer was made by a third-party country to send full-fledged fixed-wing aircraft to Ukraine to increase its fleet, but noted that this has not happened yet.

A second US official familiar with the case said the administration wanted to “leave it up to that country to decide if it wants to speak out.”

The second official said the Biden administration opposed the earlier Polish proposal because Warsaw’s intention to send the planes through the US air base in Ramstein, Germany, was considered “low-reward, high-risk” in terms of escalating the conflict in Ukraine. But “if other countries want and are able to provide combat aircraft to Ukraine, then surely this is their sovereign decision, which we respect and support.”

“It’s not that we don’t think it’s a good idea,” said the official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity on the sensitive issue. “Our comments about the risks are directly related to this proposal, rather than the whole … If another country wanted to provide them with aircraft, we would not oppose it in any way.”

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Kirby said that the Ukrainians had received the planes “platforms and parts”, without specifying what that means. On Wednesday, a senior defense official noted that Ukraine had “acquired complete helicopters, including helicopters, from the United States.”

Last week, the United States announced an $800 million military aid package for Ukraine that included 11 Mi-17 attack helicopters. The helicopters were purchased from Russia years ago to be sent to US-backed forces in Afghanistan.

In a phone call on Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that any prospect of overcoming the apparent stalemate in negotiations between Moscow and Kiev to end The conflict “depends solely on Kyiv’s willingness to take into account our legitimate demands,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press conference in Moscow that Russia’s goal in the negotiations is focused on “disarmament, disarmament and restoration of the official status of the Russian language, [and] recognition of modern regional realities, including Crimea as part of Russia and the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the LNR.” These acronyms refer to the southeastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, both part of Donbass, which Russia claimed “liberated” and gained independence through its conquest .

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“If the Kyiv regime is truly committed to its stated and affirmed commitment to negotiation, it must begin to look for realistic options to reach an agreement,” Zakharova said.

A majority at the United Nations voted not to recognize the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and Ukraine said it would not negotiate to give up any of its territory. Turkey has sought to mediate the conflict and hosted a round of talks between the two sides last month.

Zakharova also said that the Russian side submitted new peace proposals to Ukraine on Friday, but Kyiv has not yet responded. She said the Ukrainian negotiators were “using their favorite tactics: stalling, rejecting interim agreements reached earlier, and publicly disavowing what was agreed upon.”

In response, Zelensky’s advisor, Mikhailo Podolak, told Ukrainian news outlet Strana that “the Russian Federation likes to make loud statements in order to put pressure on this or that operation.”

Podolyak said that during The last round of negotiations in IstanbulRussian officials were given a “formulated position on the Ukrainian side”, and now they have presented opposite positions – nothing more.

Then comes our turn to study, compare and draw conclusions. Including a political and legal nature, Podolak said.

He played down Russia’s description of the current proposals, which Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described as a “draft document” that “was handed over to the Ukrainian side, which includes quite clear wording,” according to Russia’s state news agency TASS. .

Meanwhile, Russian Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said in Moscow that lessons explaining the goals of what Russia calls its “special operation” in Ukraine will begin in Russian schools on September 1, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Kravtsov said the children were “simply inundated with misinformation, not at all reliable, with false news about our country.” He said lessons will be held on Mondays, along with flag-raising ceremonies and singing of the national anthem.

Russia has banned the media’s use of the words “war” and “invasion” in reference to Operation Ukraine, and has effectively shut down all independent news websites in the country.

De Jong and Demirjian reported from Washington. Amy Ching in Seoul; Marie Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia; Adila Solomon in London; Matt Bonestell, Jeff Stein, Paulina Firuzi, Claire Parker, John Swain, Sarah Kahlan, and Athar Mirza in Washington contributed to this report.

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