Blinken and Lavrov meet at the G20; Scholz urges China not to hand over arms to Russia

Amid tension over the Russian war in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a brief meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on March 2 at the G20 summit in India. Blinken urged his counterpart to reverse their decision to suspend the New START nuclear treaty. Meanwhile, in Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged China not to supply Russia with weapons.

The West closes ranks against Ukraine and China against Russia. Moscow’s response to the war against its neighboring country highlights global divisions.

Under a climate of tension, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, held a brief meeting, in the middle of the G20 foreign ministers summit on March 2, in New Delhi, India.

The highest representative of US diplomacy urged his Russian counterpart to reverse the Kremlin’s decision to suspend the New START nuclear treaty. The agreement, signed between Washington and Moscow and aimed at limiting the atomic capacity of the two powers to 1,550 nuclear warheads, was suspended last February by order of President Vladimir Putin, justifying alleged threats from the West due to its growing support in weapons for the invaded nation.

Also, during the meeting, Blinken confirmed to Lavrov that the US will continue to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression for as long as necessary, according to a senior Joe Biden government official.

Increased arms aid to Ukraine has raised the ire of the Kremlin, which in recent days has even threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Moscow and Beijing accuse the West of “threats” and “blackmail”

The conversation between the two diplomats took place in the midst of a day of maximum tension at the summit of the 20 largest economies in the world, in which Moscow and Beijing denounced what they describe as “threats” from the West.

Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart, the Qin Gang, accused Europe and the United States of using “blackmail” and “threats” to impose their views. An atmosphere of strong discrepancies, in which Lavrov warned that no joint declaration would see the light at the end of the meeting.

Both “unanimously rejected attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, to impose unilateral approaches,” said a press release from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“We are talking about good manners, our Western counterparts have become very bad at it. They no longer think about diplomacy, they just blackmail and threaten everyone,” Lavrov insisted later in a meeting with the press.

‘Don’t hand over weapons to the Russian aggressor’: Scholz urges China not to back Kremlin

From Berlin and in a session before Parliament, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, issued a forceful warning to China to refrain from supplying weapons to the Kremlin, as Western governments foresee, although Beijing assures that it has no such intentions.

“My message to Beijing is clear: use your influence in Moscow to urge the withdrawal of Russian troops (…) And do not hand over weapons to the aggressor Russia,” Scholz stressed.

Meanwhile, sources quoted by Reuters indicate that the United States and its close allies are evaluating the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China in case it provides military support to the invading nation.

The consultations, which are still in a preliminary stage, are aimed at gaining support from a range of countries, mainly the G7, to coordinate any possible restrictions on Beijing.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the Bundestag, in Berlin, on March 2, 2023.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the Bundestag, in Berlin, on March 2, 2023. © Odd Andersen/AFP

In the midst of the biggest collapse of the European order since the Cold War and after the attempt to present a neutral position at the beginning of the Russian invasion, China is increasingly showing a united front with Russia.

This was amply demonstrated in the meeting held by the highest representative of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Yi, during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 22.

“We do not accept pressure… Sino-Russian relations are mature and rock-solid, they will withstand the tests of this changing international situation,” Wang said at the time.

Wagner points out that his men would have entered Bakhmut

The founder of the Russian group of mercenaries Wagner published a video on Thursday that, he says, shows his fighters inside the strategic city of Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine and that the Russians have tried to capture during months of intense fighting against the Ukrainian Army. .

“The boys (members of the paramilitary group) are playing, shooting home videos. They brought this from Bakhmut this morning, practically the center of the city,” Prigozhin’s press service, via a Telegram post.

Two Ukrainian soldiers stationed in a trench near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 25, 2022.
Two Ukrainian soldiers stationed in a trench near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 25, 2022. Leah Millis/Reuters

Reuters identified that the images correspond to the east of Bakhmut, about 2 kilometers from the center of the city. However, the video has not been independently verified; nor the date on which it would have been recorded.

Wagner is spearheading Russian operations to seize control of the site and has made a breakthrough in recent months that has put Ukrainian forces’ supply lines at risk.

But the Army of the invaded country clings to defending the small city, which is strategic for Moscow, since it would open the way to take the last urban centers that remain outside its power in the Donetsk region.

Bakhmut has been reduced to a devastated wasteland, with a few thousand inhabitants out of the 70,000 that lived there before the war, as Ukrainian soldiers fight street by street, resisting with outdated Soviet-era military equipment such as showed a team from France24.

The tanks and weapons announced by the West are not expected to reach Ukrainian forces before spring or summer.

Meanwhile, fighting intensifies in Kharkiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhia, where at least three civilians died on Thursday, after a Russian missile hit a five-story apartment building in the city located in the south of the attacked country.

With Reuters and AP

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