Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov vows 'tough' reply to 'hostile' EU

Russia's top diplomat has said the EU is intent on inflicting "a strategic defeat on Russia." Meanwhile, Ukraine said Russian strikes have damaged the strategic port of Odesa

Ukraine updates: Lavrov vows 'tough' reply to 'hostile' EU
Ukraine updates: Lavrov vows 'tough' reply to 'hostile' EU


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has blamed the European Union's deteriorating relations with Russia on the former's support for Kyiv in the Ukraine conflict.

"The European Union has lost Russia. But it is its own fault. It is the EU member countries and EU leaders who openly declare it is necessary to inflict, as they call it, a strategic defeat on Russia," Lavrov told the website Argumenty i Fatky in an interview on Tuesday.

He added that Russia would respond in a reciprocal and "tough manner if necessary" based on its national interests, describing the EU's steps in supplying Ukraine with weapons and instructors as "hostile."

Meanwhile, Lavrov praised Russia's relationship with China, accusing the West of trying to drive a wedge between the two countries.

The top Russian diplomat was specifically referring to Western analysis of Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent trip to Moscow, which was interpreted as a reflection of the unequal relationship between the two countries.

Lavrov stressed that Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached a "strategic partnership" between their countries during 10 hours of talks on the backdrop of the visit some two weeks ago.

"Naturally, we have a sense of comradeship and readiness to stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of each other's fundamental interests," Lavrov said.

Xi's visit to Moscow came on the heels of the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Putin. Analysts at the time suggested Putin was holding on to the visit to portray an unphased reaction to the warrant, whereas Xi was using Russia's delicate situation to secure cheaper energy supplies.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Tuesday, April 4:

UN Human Rights Council demands access to deported Ukrainian children

The United Nations Human Rights Council demanded that Russia provide access to and information about Ukrainian children and other civilians forcibly transferred to territory under its control.

The top UN rights body passed a resolution demanding that Moscow "cease the unlawful forced transfer and deportation of civilians and other protected persons within Ukraine or to the Russian Federation."

The text, which passed with 28 of the 47 council members voting in favour, 17 abstaining and only China and Eritrea opposed, highlighted in particular the transfer of "children, including those from institutional care, unaccompanied children and separated children."

The Council also overwhelmingly voted in favor of extending and expanding the mandate of an investigative body probing possible war crimes committed since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian court accuses Ukrainian officer of murder

A military court in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia has started hearings against a Ukrainian officer accused of murder, terrorism and the brutal treatment of civilians. This is the first such case against the Ukrainian military in Russia.

The Russian investigative committee previously said senior sergeant Anton Cherednyk was accused of killing a civilian near Mariupol on March 27, 2022 "for mispronouncing words in Ukrainian."

According to the Russian state news agency TASS, Cherednyk pleaded guilty to murder. The next hearing will be held on April 10.

Belarus troops train on Russian nuclear-capable missile system

Belarusian troops have begun training on a nuclear-capable Russian missile system following President Vladimir Putin's decision to deploy tactical weapons on Belarusian territory, Moscow and Minsk said.

"An Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system has been transferred to Belarusian forces," Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said, adding that Belarusian crews began training on how to use it.

Belarus' defence ministry published photos of men in uniforms with the Belarusian crest, their faces hidden, getting on military planes to Russia. "The crew of these units will study in detail issues relating to the maintenance and use of the tactical nuclear weapons of the Iskander-M missile system," the Belarusian defence ministry said on Telegram.

"They will undergo a full training cycle at one of the Russian armed forces' training grounds," it said, without saying how long the training would last.

Moscow said on March 25 that it would station tactical nuclear arms within its ally's borders, a move that drew widespread criticism. Tactical nuclear arms are battlefield weapons that, while devastating, have a smaller yield compared to long-range strategic weapons.

Russia wants to replace Wagner with its own mercenary force — UK

According to information from British intelligence services, Russia is planning to build up more mercenary troops for the war against Ukraine.

The aim is to replace the Wagner Group in its "significant combat role in Ukraine," the UK Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence update.

It said the Russian military leadership wanted a private army it could better control because of the "high-profile feud" between the Defense Ministry and Wagner. "However, no other known Russian private military company currently approaches Wagner's size or combat power," it said.

In principle, Russia finds the use of private mercenary groups in Ukraine useful, the British ministry added. "They are less constrained by the limited pay levels and inefficiency which hamper the effectiveness of the regular army," it said.

In addition, the Russian leadership presumably has the impression that losses of private troops would be tolerated by society rather than dead and wounded regular soldiers, the update said.

Macron and von der Leyen to discuss war in Ukraine with China

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are traveling to China on a three-day visit that begins on Wednesday.

The visit will focus on the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Macron is expected to warn China against sending arms to Russia and to ask that the country use its influence to help peace efforts.

Beijing says it is neutral on the war but also emphasizes its "no-limits friendship" with Russia. China's President Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last month.

However, Paris and Beijing may find a point of convergence following Putin's recent announcement that his country plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. China, without naming Russia, made clear its opposition to the planned deployment.

Finland joins NATO in a historic shift

In a historic strategic shift prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Finland's NATO membership has been finalized.

Moscow's war on Ukraine disrupted Europe's security landscape and forced Finland and Sweden to drop their decades of non-alignment positioning.

Turkey and Hungary had delayed Finland's bid to join the alliance, which began in May 2022. Last week, Ankara finally voted to clear Finland's last hurdle.

The ratification was completed in well under a year, making Finland's membership process the fastest in NATO's recent history.

With a wartime strength of 280,000, Helsinki's has one of Europe's largest artillery arsenals.

"President Putin went to war against Ukraine with a clear aim to get less NATO. He's getting the exact opposite," said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg

Stockholm's progress continues to remain blocked, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has complained that it has failed to meet demands over Kurdish independence activists it says are terrorists being harbored by Sweden.

Brazil presidential adviser reportedly met Putin last month

On a trip to Moscow, Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva's top foreign adviser discussed the potential for peace negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin late last month, according to media reports.

Celso Amorim, who head's Lula's special advisory group, met Putin for an hour in the Kremlin on March 25, the French AFP news agency and CNN Brazil reported.

Lula had proposed creating a mediation group in the war. His advisor's trip preceded Lula's scheduled visit to China, another country also pushing to mediate a peace deal between the warring countries.

Lula reportedly plans on discussing such mediation efforts with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, when they meet in Beijing next week.

Amorim, who served as Lula's foreign minister from 2003 to 2010, told CNN Brazil that he believed that both parties will start considering the need for a peace deal sooner than is expected.

Apart from Putin, Amorim reportedly met as well other top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov is due to visit Brazil on April 17.

German foreign minister slams Russia's use of landmines

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called on Moscow to stop planting landmines in Ukrainian agricultural fields. The appeals came on Tuesday's International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

In a Foreign Ministry statement, Baerbock said such mines cause several civilian casualties and also scare away farmers.

Baerbock signaled the impact of mines on global food security, which already took a hit when the war in Ukraine affected the export of grains. Before — and even during — the war, Ukraine has been a major exporter of grains to the world market.

The German foreign minister described anti-personnel mines as "cruel weapons," addressing their lasting impact long after fighting concludes.

Baerbock referred to parents in Iraq, Cambodia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and their inability to relax whenever their children go outside to play, in fear that a landmine from years ago might explode.

'Damage' after Russian drones strike strategic Odesa port, Ukraine says

Russian drones struck Ukraine's strategic port of Odesa, causing "damage," local Ukrainian authorities said in the early hours of Tuesday.

Yuriy Kruk, the head of the Odesa district military administration, warned in the statement of a potential second wave of attack. He added that Ukrainian defense forces were hard at work in response.

As Ukraine's largest and sole deep-water port, Odesa's port is a prime departure point for Ukrainian grains, making it a prime source of revenue.

More news on the war in Ukraine

Germany's Deputy Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck has arrived for political talks in Ukraine in an unannounced visit. He and a small business delegation will focus on the energy sector.

Kyiv plans to launch a counteroffensive against Russia this spring. A former US military meteorologist has taken to Twitter to provide valuable predictions as to when ground conditions will be right.

rmt/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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