Biden issues one of the strongest warnings yet that Russia may use chemical weapons in Ukraine

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WASHINGTON/MARIUPOL/KYIV (REUTERS) – United States President Joe Biden issued one of his strongest warnings yet that Moscow is contemplating utilizing chemical weapons.

Without citing proof, Mr Biden stated Russia’s false accusations that Kyiv had organic and chemical weapons illustrated that President Vladimir Putin was contemplating utilizing them himself.

Mr Putin’s “back is against the wall and now he’s talking about new false flags he’s setting up including, asserting that we in America have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe, simply not true,” Mr Biden stated at a Business Roundtable occasion on Monday (March 21).

“They are also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That’s a clear sign he’s considering using both of those.” The Russian embassy in Washington didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Ukraine stated on Monday  it might not obey ultimatums from Russia after Moscow demanded it cease defending besieged Mariupol, the place a whole lot of hundreds of civilians are struggling by means of Russian bombardments laying waste to their metropolis.

Mariupol has turn out to be a focus of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, however assaults have been additionally reported to have intensified on the nation’s second metropolis Kharkiv on Monday.

The battle has pushed virtually 1 / 4 of Ukraine’s 44 million folks from their properties, and Germany predicted the refugee quantity might attain as excessive as 10 million in coming weeks.

Europe stated Russia was utilizing refugees as a instrument and that it was ready to take extra motion on prime of current sanctions to isolate Russia from world funds and commerce.

Russia’s navy had ordered residents of Mariupol to give up by 5am (11am, Singapore time) on Monday, saying those that did so might depart, whereas those that stayed can be handed to tribunals run by Moscow-backed separatists.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s authorities responded that it might by no means bow to ultimatums and stated cities similar to the capital Kyiv, Mariupol and Kharkiv would all the time defy occupation.

“There can be no question of any surrender” in Mariupol, stated Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Russia’s invasion, now in its fourth week, has largely stalled, failing to seize any main metropolis, however inflicting large destruction to residential areas.

Mariupol, a port metropolis on the Sea of Azov that was residence to 400,000 folks, has run brief of meals, drugs, energy and water. Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov stated its “heroic defenders” had helped thwart Russia elsewhere.

A component of Mariupol now held by Russian forces, reached by Reuters on Sunday, was an eerie wasteland. Several our bodies lay by the street, wrapped in blankets. Windows have been blasted out and partitions have been charred black. People who got here out of basements sat on benches amid the particles, bundled up in coats.

Some, although, are managing to flee.

A complete of 8,057 folks have been safely evacuated on Monday by means of seven humanitarian corridors from cities and cities below hearth, stated Ms Vereshchuk. Among these dropped at security have been 3,007 residents of Mariupol.

Russia calls the warfare, the greatest assault on a European state since World War Two, a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and shield it from “Nazis”.

The West calls this a false pretext for an unprovoked warfare of aggression by Mr Putin.

Mr Biden instructed companies to be alert for doable cyber assaults by Russia and do extra to guard themselves.

“It’s part of Russia’s playbook,” he stated in an announcement.

“My administration is reiterating those warnings based on evolving intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.”

There was no quick reply from the Kremlin to a request for remark from Reuters out of hours on Monday.

Russia has beforehand rejected comparable allegations together with that it was liable for hacks on Ukrainian banking and authorities web sites in February.

In response to Mr Biden final week calling Mr Putin a “war criminal,” Russia’s overseas ministry stated on Monday it had summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan.

“Such statements from the American president, unworthy of a statesman of such high rank, put Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture,” it stated.

Deputy US Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in an interview on MSNBC, stated Russia’s response “just shows how desperate President Putin is becoming.”

The battle continues to rage in a quantity of areas.

The japanese cities of Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv have additionally been laborious hit by Russia’s tactic of pounding city areas with artillery as its troops have executed earlier than in Syria and Chechnya.

On Monday night time, a witness in Kharkiv stated she noticed folks on the roofs of condo buildings dropping grenades or comparable ordnance onto the streets.

A second witness, exterior the metropolis, reported listening to extra intense explosions than on any day since Russian troops started attacking final month.

Reuters couldn’t instantly confirm the accounts.

In Kyiv, six our bodies have been laid on the pavement by a shopping center struck in a single day by Russian shelling. Emergency providers combed wreckage to the sound of distant artillery hearth.

Firefighters put out small blazes round the constructing, attempting to find survivors. Ukraine stated at the least eight folks died.

Russia stated the centre was getting used as a weapons retailer.

Ukraine stated there have been no strategic navy objects in the space. Neither report could possibly be independently verified.

Officials imposed a day-and-a-half curfew in the capital from Monday night time, citing the chance of extra shelling.

Britain stated there was heavy combating to the north however that Ukrainian forces had fought off an advance and most Russian forces have been greater than 25km from the metropolis centre.

Ukrainian officers hope that Moscow, having did not safe a fast victory, will minimize its losses and negotiate a withdrawal. Both sides hinted final week at progress in talks on a method which would come with some variety of “neutrality” for Ukraine, although particulars have been scarce.

West of Mariupol, the governor of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia area stated shelling had hit buses evacuating civilians from entrance line areas and 4 kids have been wounded in separate incidents that he blamed on Russia. Reuters couldn’t verify the report independently. Moscow denies focusing on civilians.

Mr Biden mentioned Russia’s “brutal tactics” in Ukraine with European leaders on Monday and Britain stated they reaffirmed their dedication to assist Ukraine militarily, diplomatically and economically.

But European Union overseas ministers disagreed on whether or not and the best way to embrace vitality in sanctions, with Germany saying the bloc was too depending on Russian oil to declare an embargo.

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