Moscow last night warned it could target British diplomats returning to Kyiv after a defence minister’s ‘provocative’ talk of bombing Russia.
Russia’s defence ministry issued the threat after Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said that the UK backed Ukrainian air strikes on Russian infrastructure.
He added that it would be ‘completely legitimate’ for British weapons to be used in such attacks, even though none are currently thought to be.
But his remarks were seized upon by the Kremlin, with the defence ministry accusing him of ‘provocation.’
Russia’s defence ministry issued a threat to strike UK diplomats in Kyiv when they return to the Ukrainian capital city
In a significant escalation of tensions, Moscow warned that it would be prepared to strike back at ‘decision-making centres’ in Kyiv in retaliation – even if British and other Western diplomats were present.
It comes after Boris Johnson last week announced that Britain will reopen its embassy in Kyiv two months after staff were evacuated as war broke out. The embassy is due to open this week ‘dependent on the security situation’. Melinda Simmons, UK ambassador to Ukraine, is poised to become one of the first diplomats to return.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced during a visit to Kyiv that American diplomats would also be returning to the capital ‘within weeks’.
UK diplomats are set to be among the first to return to Ukraine after the failed Russian siege of the city came to a halt a fortnight ago
Responding to Mr Heappey’s support for Ukrainian attacks on Russian supply lines, a Kremlin spokesman said: ‘We would like to underline that London’s direct provocation of the Kyiv regime into such actions – if such actions are carried out – will immediately lead to our proportional response.
‘As we have warned, the Russian armed forces are in round-the-clock readiness to launch retaliatory strikes with high-precision long-range weapons at decision-making centres in Kyiv. The presence of advisers from Western countries in the Ukrainian decision-making centres won’t necessarily pose a problem for Russia in making a decision to launch retaliatory action.’
Mr Heappey told Times Radio yesterday the UK has a duty to support any Ukrainian strikes on Russian infrastructure because these could prevent deaths of civilians. This week a key restocking depot in Bryansk 95 miles inside Russia was hit, causing explosions at fuel tanks and a refinery. Ukraine has not admitted carrying out the attack.
Mr Heappey said: ‘I think it is certainly the case that things [weapons] that the international community are now providing to Ukraine have the range to be used over the borders. But that’s not necessarily a problem. It is completely legitimate for Ukraine to be targeting in Russia’s depth in order to disrupt the logistics that if they weren’t disrupted would directly contribute to death and carnage on Ukrainian soil.’
He also insisted that Ukraine can still win the war if the West continues to provide the necessary equipment.
Mr Heappey told Times Radio yesterday the UK has a duty to support any Ukrainian strikes on Russian infrastructure
Meanwhile, 40 Nato and EU defence ministers yesterday met in Germany to agree to send heavier weapon systems to Ukraine.
After weeks of dithering, Germany announced it would provide 50 Gepard anti-aircraft systems. It followed harsh criticism from the US and Europe that it had been far too hesitant to deliver heavy weaponry as it feared widening the conflict.
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin revealed senior officials from the alliance would meet once a month to ensure they optimised opportunities to send military equipment. He stressed: ‘We have no time to lose. We have to move at the speed of war.’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss gave her support for the UK providing Ukraine with more powerful weapons. She said it was no longer enough to supply ‘defensive weaponry’ as the nature of the battle had changed. She told MPs: ‘For too long there was a false distinction between defensive and offensive weapons. It became an excuse for some to drag their feet. That time has now passed.’
Mr Heappey said that he believed that strikes on Russian infrastructure would save the lives of Ukrainian civilians from Putin’s (pictured) war machine
‘Considerable’ risk of nuclear war, Putin’s attack dog warns
By Mark Nichol Defence Editor for the Daily Mail
Vladimir Putin’s attack-dog diplomat has accused the UK and other Western powers of risking nuclear war by supplying weapons to Ukraine.
Sergei Lavrov claimed Nato’s support for Ukraine intended to weaken Russia and had pitched Moscow into a ‘proxy war’ with the security alliance.
In a chilling threat, he suggested the West’s continued provision of military aid meant there was a ‘considerable risk’ of a nuclear conflict.
Speaking at the Kremlin, the foreign minister, known for his disdain of the West, said: ‘Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War Three. The danger is serious. It is real. It should not be underestimated.
Speaking at the Kremlin, foreign minister Lavrov (right), known for his disdain of the West, said: ‘Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War Three. The danger is serious. It is real. It should not be underestimated’
‘Nato has entered into a war with Russia through proxies and is arming those proxies and pouring oil on the fire.
‘Preventing nuclear war at all costs is our key position on which we base everything. But the risks are now considerable.
‘[Russia] has a feeling the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight and, as it seems to them, wear out, exhaust the Russian army and the Russian military industrial complex. This is an illusion.’
Last night, however, Vladimir Putin raised some hopes of an end to the fighting. As he welcomed United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the Kremlin, the Russian president said he hoped talks with Ukraine would yield ‘a positive result’.
He told Mr Guterres: ‘Despite the fact that the military operation is ongoing, we still hope that we will be able to reach agreements on the diplomatic track. We are negotiating, we do not reject (talks).’ Representatives of the warring parties are continuing to meet in virtual peace talks. But any summit between President Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky would require officials to first make significant progress in their online negotiations, the Kremlin leader said.
He claimed previous talks in Istanbul between the two sides had achieved ‘a serious breakthrough’ but negotiations stalled following the discovery of the slaughter of civilians in Bucha, which Russia claims was staged by the West.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said yesterday: ‘I think that what needs to happen to cause the conflict to come to an end is Mr Putin needs to make a decision to end this conflict. He’s the person that started it. It will be his decision to de-escalate and then go back to the negotiating table.’ The two-month long campaign has unquestionably weakened Russia, with more than 20,000 of its soldiers feared dead, the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet sunk and thousands of its aircraft, tanks and other vehicles destroyed.
Ukraine seized upon Mr Lavrov’s comments, as his opposite number in Kyiv, Dmytro Kuleba, said: ‘This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine.
‘Therefore the world must double-down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security.’ The UK’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey described the Kremlin claims as ‘bravado’ while Mr Austin condemned them as ‘dangerous sabre-rattling’.
He said: ‘Nobody can win a nuclear war and any bluster about using nuclear weapons is unhelpful. The US will do everything in its power, and Ukraine will do everything in its power, to ensure the conflict does not spin out of control. We are always mindful of having the right balance.’
But the West’s military support for Ukraine, which was reiterated at a Nato defence ministers’ meeting in Germany yesterday, could lead to the break-up of the country, Russia warned yesterday.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council and a key ally of President Putin, said: ‘The result of the policy of the West and the regime in Kyiv can only be the disintegration of Ukraine into several states.
‘The Americans have cynically chosen Ukraine in an attempt to suppress Russia and have tried to divide essentially a single people.’
President Zelensky condemned Mr Guterres’ decision to visit Moscow first as Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities continued
His remarks may have revealed Russia’s position in any future peace talks, with Ukraine’s eastern regions either becoming an independent country or part of the Russian Federation, in return for a ceasefire. But any settlement appeared a distant prospect last night following the visit to Moscow by Mr Guterres.
After meetings with Mr Lavrov, the UN chief said it was clear there remained ‘two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine’, the position held by Russia and the position held by Ukraine and its allies. Mr Guterres is also due to meet Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
President Zelensky condemned Mr Guterres’ decision to visit Moscow first as Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities continued.
Russia is trying to ‘destabilise’ breakaway Moldovan region that borders Ukraine, Kyiv warns, after two explosions prompt ‘false flag’ fears
- Two explosions destroyed two radio antennas in the disputed Moldovan region of Transnistria yesterday
- A Day earlier, explosions reportedly hit the Ministry of State Security in the breakaway region
- Transnistria, a region on the border with Ukraine, is recognised internationally as part of Moldova
By Rachael Bunyan for the MailOnline
Kyiv today accused Russia of trying to ‘destabilise’ Moldova’s breakaway region that borders Ukraine after two explosions there prompted fears of Russia launching ‘false flag’ attacks to justify invading the territory.
The explosions destroyed two powerful Soviet-era radio antennas that were re-broadcasting Russian stations in the region of Transnistria, an unrecognised Moscow-backed sliver of land bordering southwestern Ukraine, on Tuesday.
The blasts occurred in the small town of Maiac roughly 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of the border with Ukraine, just days after a Kremlin military chief warned that ‘Russian-speakers’ had been ‘oppressed’ there.
A day earlier, several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades were reported to hit the Ministry of State Security in the city of Tiraspol, the region’s capital. No one was hurt in the explosions, officials said.
On Tuesday, a military unit in the village of Parcani was also targeted. Officials did not offer any details on the incident, but declared a ‘red level of terrorist threat’ and promised to impose additional security measures in the region.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak accused Russia of trying to destabilise Transnistria and warned that ‘if Ukraine falls tomorrow, Russian troops will be at Chisinau’, the Moldovan capital.
‘Russia wants to destabilise the Transnistrian region and hints Moldova should wait for ‘guests’,’ Podolyak said.
‘Good news, Ukraine will definitely ensure strategic security of the region. But we need to work as a team.’
The United States has warned amid the war in Ukraine that Russia could launch ‘false-flag’ attacks in nearby nations as a pretext for sending in troops.
Last week, Kremlin military chief Rustam Minnekayev said Russia sought control of southern Ukraine, which could provide access to Transnistria, ‘where there have been cases of oppression of the Russian-speaking population’.
The explosions destroyed two powerful Soviet-era radio antennas that were re-broadcasting Russian stations in the region of Transnistria, an unrecognised Moscow-backed sliver of land bordering southwestern Ukraine, on Tuesday
A day earlier, several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades were reported to hit the Ministry of State Security in the city of Tiraspol, the region’s capital. No one was hurt in the explosions, officials said
The Transnistrian authorities said the offices of the state security ministry in Tiraspol were hit by what appeared to be a grenade-launcher attack on Monday evening
Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, is recognised internationally as part of Moldova but is effectively controlled by Russia, which has given citizenship to separatists
Minnekayev, the deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, said Moscow planned to forge a corridor between Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014, and the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.
Moldova’s foreign ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador over the comments, which it called ‘unfounded and contradicting Russia’s position in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country within internationally recognised borders’.
The suggestion by a senior Russian official that Moscow needs to defend supporters in a nearby country is a chilling echo of its previous justification for invading Ukraine.
And today, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia is closely following events in Transnistria, adding that news from the region was a cause for serious concern.
Moldova’s president Maia Sandu said the attacks in Transnistria were an attempt by factions within the territory to increase tensions, as she urged the country’s citizens to remain calm.
Speaking after Moldova’s Security Council held an urgent meeting, Sandu said: ‘From the information we have at this moment, these escalation attempts stem from factions from within the Transnistrian region who are pro-war forces and interested in destabilising the situation in the region.’
She said the security council had recommended improving the combat readiness of security forces, increasing the number of patrols and checks near Moldova’s border with Transnistria, and monitoring critical infrastructure more closely.
Sandu said: ‘We urge citizens to keep calm and feel safe,’ while urging authorities to tighten public safety measures and protection of critical infrastructure.
Transnistria’s president, Vadim Krasnoselsky, also called on Tuesday for anti-terrorist security measures to be imposed at a ‘red level’ for 15 days, including setting up blockposts at the entrances to cities.
The Moldovan authorities are sensitive to any sign of growing tensions in Transnistria, especially since Russia invaded their neighbour Ukraine.
Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, is recognised internationally as part of Moldova but is effectively controlled by Russia, which has given citizenship to separatists.
An estimated 1,500 Russian troops are permanently stationed in the Transnistria, but concerns are high that the region could be used as a launch pad for new attacks on Ukraine.
Russia’s military base still guards a stockpile of some 20,000 tonnes of munitions which were brought there when Soviet troops withdrew from Europe.
In the early hours of Tuesday, two explosions hit a radio tower re-broadcasting Russian stations near the Ukrainian border.
‘Early on April 26, two explosions were heard in the village of Mayak in Grigoriopolsky district,’it said in a statement.
It said the blasts at 6:40 am and 7:05 am (0340 GMT and 0405 GMT) targeted the ‘Mayak’ radio centre, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the regional capital Tiraspol.
Antennas of the ‘Mayak’ radio centre are seen lying on the ground on Tuesday following the blasts in the village of Mayak in Grigoriopolsky district in Moldova’s Russian-backed breakaway Transnistria region
A law enforcement officer is seen standing in front of the ‘Mayak’ radio centre antennas following the blasts in the village of Mayak on Tuesday
Kremlin military chief Rustam Minnekayev on Friday said Russia sought control of southern Ukraine, which could provide access to Transnistria, ‘where there have been cases of oppression of the Russian-speaking population’. Pictured: Pro-Russian troops move along a road in Mariupol, southern Ukraine
The ministry said two ‘powerful’ antennae that were re-broadcasting Russian radio were out of order, and shared images of them lying on the ground. There were no injuries, it added.
This came after the Transnistrian authorities said the offices of the state security ministry in Tiraspol were hit by what appeared to be a grenade-launcher attack on Monday evening.
No one was injured in the incident, which happened at around 6:00 pm on a public holiday for the Orthodox Easter.
But windows were blown out in the state security ministry building and smoke was ‘billowing out of the buildings’, the Transnistria region’s interior ministry said in a statement.
There was no immediate reason to suggest a link between the two incidents.
The conflict in Ukraine has provoked fears in Moldova that the country could become Russia’s next target.
Moldovan President Sandu on Tuesday called for a meeting of the country’s Supreme Security Council in response to the incidents.
‘The Supreme Security Council will meet from 1300 (1000 GMT) at the Presidency. After the meeting, at 1500, President Maia Sandu will hold a press briefing’, the president’s press office said in a statement.
On Monday, the Moldovan government said the Tiraspol blasts were aimed at creating tensions in a region it had no control of.
Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest states, was part of the Soviet Union but a war broke out between Moldovan forces and Russian-backed separatists in the Transnistria area in 1992. A ceasefire was agreed but the conflict remains unresolved.
Unlike Ukraine and Georgia, Moldova is not seeking Nato membership. The landlocked country, with a population of just 2.6million, has only a few thousand active military personnel, so it would not be able to withstand a Russian invasion.