Biden says ‘Zelensky didn’t want to hear’ warnings that Putin would invade

Washington: US President Joe Biden said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tuned out warnings that Russia would invade his country in the lead-up to the February 24 attack.

“I know a lot of people thought I was maybe exaggerating, but I knew, and we had data to sustain, he was going in off the border. There was no doubt. And Zelensky didn’t want to hear it, nor did a lot of people,” Biden said Friday during a political fundraiser in Los Angeles hosted by Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.

The president acknowledged that the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin launching a full-scale invasion may have seemed far-fetched, saying, “I understand why they didn’t want to hear it”.

US President Joe Biden acknowledged that the idea of a full-scale invasion seemed far-fetched, and he could understand why Zelensky wouldn’t hear it.Credit:AP

Biden accused Putin of “trying to obliterate the culture, not just the nation, but the culture” of Ukraine and said the Russian leader sees the capital of Kyiv as “the seat of mother Russia”.

Meanwhile, Russian bombers have likely been launching 1960s-era heavy, anti-ship missiles meant to destroy aircraft carriers with nuclear warheads against land targets in Ukraine, a British military intelligence report said on Saturday.

It said the 5.5-ton Kh-22 missiles, when used in ground attacks with conventional warheads, are highly inaccurate and can cause severe collateral damage and casualties.

Russia is likely using such weapons because it is running short of more precise modern missiles, Britain’s Defence Ministry said in a daily update. It gave no details of where exactly such missiles are thought to have been deployed.

The report said Ukrainian air defences were still deterring Russian tactical aircraft from carrying out strikes across much of the country.

But Ukraine pleaded to Western countries for faster deliveries of weapons as better-armed Russian forces pounded the east of the country, and for humanitarian support to combat growing outbreaks of deadly diseases.

In Sievierodonetsk, the small city that has become the focus of Russia’s advance in eastern Ukraine and one of the bloodiest flashpoints in a war well into its fourth month, further heavy fighting was reported.

The war in the east, where Russia is focussing its attention, is now primarily an artillery battle in which Kyiv is severely outgunned, Ukrainian officials say. That means the tide of events could be turned only if Washington and others fulfil promises to send more and better weaponry, including rocket systems.

Police investigate a missile strike in Druzhivka, Ukraine, in the Donetsk. Credit:Getty

“This is an artillery war now,” Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy head of military intelligence, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

“Everything now depends on what (the West) gives us. Ukraine has one artillery piece to 10 to 15 Russian artillery pieces.”

Germany, among the largest suppliers of weapons since Russia invaded but criticised for being slow to supply the heavy weaponry Kyiv says it needs, plans to revise its rules on arms exports to make it easier to arm democracies like Ukraine, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

To the south, the mayor of Mariupol – reduced to ruins by a Russian siege – said sanitation systems were broken and corpses were rotting in the streets.

“There is an outbreak of dysentery and cholera,” Vadym Boichenko told national television. “The war which took over 20,000 residents … unfortunately, with these infection outbreaks, will claim thousands more Mariupolites,” he said, adding some wells had been contaminated by corpses.

Boichenko called on the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to establish a humanitarian corridor to allow remaining residents to leave the city, which is now under Russian control.

Bloomberg, AP

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