San Francisco Chronicle

Blinken: China may give Russia weapons

- By Cassandra Vinograd

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States believed China was considerin­g supplying weapons and other lethal aid to Russia for its war in Ukraine and that he had warned Beijing that doing so “would cause a serious problem” for already strained relations with Washington.

The Biden administra­tion has repeatedly warned Russia’s allies against providing military support for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Although the United States has so far only seen Beijing supply nonmilitar­y aid to Russia, “the concern that we have now is, based on informatio­n we have, that they’re considerin­g providing lethal support,” Blinken told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” in an interview that aired Sunday.

Blinken did not elaborate on what the United States believed China might supply but said that it could include weapons and ammunition. The comments underscore­d concerns in the Biden administra­tion that Moscow, heavily isolated by Western sanctions over its invasion, was increasing­ly turning to allies, including China, Iran and North Korea, for military supplies as its war approaches the one-year mark.

On Saturday, Blinken met with his Chinese counterpar­t, Wang Yi, at an annual security conference in Munich, the first high-level diplomatic exchange between the two sides since a Chinese spy balloon was found flying over the United States, causing a crisis in bilateral relations. A detailed readout of the meeting published by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua did not mention Russia or Ukraine.

But what U.S. officials described as a testy encounter between

the two diplomats highlighte­d how the war in Ukraine has become the latest point of friction between the United States and China. And it came at a Munich conference that was dominated by the war, with Western officials doubling down on their resolve to support Ukraine as Russia tries to step up a new offensive in eastern Ukraine.

The European Union’s top diplomat said Sunday that Western nations must quickly increase their military support for Ukraine, rebuking the delays in providing weapons as the war enters what he called a “critical moment.”

The diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told the gathering in

Munich that praise and promises for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine were not enough. “There needs to be less applause and better supply with arms,” Borrell said, adding that “much more has to be done, and much quicker.”

Amid concerns over whether Western unity can endure as the war drags on, the United States and its European partners at the gathering sought to project resolve, largely repeating pledges to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. Blinken said he was “motivated by the accomplish­ments” allies have made in support of Ukraine, writing on Twitter on Sunday, “We will remain unified and see victory for Ukrainians fighting for their country’s fate.”

President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Ukraine’s neighbor, Poland, to deliver a speech Tuesday to observe the anniversar­y of Russia’s invasion. President Vladimir Putin of Russia is expected to deliver a speech on the same day.

With Russia trying to escalate an offensive in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine’s allies have been working to come up with ways to provide additional military support. After lengthy discussion­s, allies recently pledged to begin sending battle tanks to Ukraine, a decision that Borrell said had taken too much time.

“Everybody knows that in order to win a war,” you need tanks, he told the conference.

Zelenskyy, in an opening address to the conference Friday, warned his allies against “fatigue” and emphasized that speed was critical if his country were to hold off a renewed Russian onslaught. In an address late Saturday, Zelenskyy said that he was “grateful” for the “important statements” of support from Western officials in Munich.

“We received strong signals from our partners, and concrete agreements regarding the inevitabil­ity of holding Russia accountabl­e for aggression, for terror against Ukraine and its people,” he said.

Russia responded sharply to Vice President Kamala Harris, who told the conference Saturday that the United States had determined that Moscow had committed “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine and pledged to hold accountabl­e “all those who have perpetrate­d these crimes,” as well as their superiors.

In a statement later Saturday, Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, dismissed the comments “as an attempt, unpreceden­ted in terms of its cynicism, to demonize Russia.”

Ukrainian officials have been warning of a potential Russian escalation timed to the anniversar­y of the invasion, and heavy fighting was reported Sunday around the city of Kreminna, a small but vital pocket of land in the Donbas region.

Serhiy Haidai, the head of the regional military administra­tion, called the situation around Kreminna “difficult” and said shelling was constant. “Russians are trying to find a spot to penetrate our defenses,” he told Ukrainian television.

Elsewhere, Russian shelling killed a family of three people and wounded at least four other people in the southern region of Kherson, local officials said.

 ?? Daniel Berehulak/New York Times ?? Cemetery workers bury the coffin of Ukrainian soldier Oleksiy Lytvynov during his funeral Sunday in Boryspil near Kyiv, Ukraine.
Daniel Berehulak/New York Times Cemetery workers bury the coffin of Ukrainian soldier Oleksiy Lytvynov during his funeral Sunday in Boryspil near Kyiv, Ukraine.

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