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Ukraine live briefing: Blinken warns China against giving ‘lethal support’ to Russia, as leaders meet in Munich


Ukraine is dominating the agenda at the Munich Security Conference. As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion nears, Vice President Harris reaffirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting Kyiv and, in her address to the annual gathering of officials from across the world, accused Russia of committing “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in an interview airing Sunday with CBS’s Margaret Brennan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken again warned that China is considering providing “lethal support” to Russia, including weapons and ammunition. Blinken met with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the Munich conference, as diplomatic tensions over Chinese spy balloons remain raw. Blinken said he cautioned Wang that there would be “serious consequences” if Beijing aids Moscow with munitions or helps the Kremlin evade sanctions.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, hit back at U.S. allegations of crimes against humanity, accusing the Biden administration of attempting to “demonize” Russia. He claimed Washington was trying to “justify its own actions to foment the Ukrainian crisis,” according to a transcript published Sunday by Tass, a Russian state-owned news organization.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to deliver a “peace speech” Feb. 24, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Wang said at the Munich conference that world leaders need to think “about what kind of efforts we can make to stop this war.”
  • European Union officials are looking for ways to jointly procure munitions to help arm Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They are expected to discuss the proposal Monday in Brussels. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at the security conference that Western nations are struggling to meet Ukraine’s ammunition needs.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said world leaders sent “strong signals” at the conference about holding Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine. In his nightly address, he also expressed optimism about world leaders’ ongoing commitment to supporting Kyiv in its fight.

Battleground updates

  • Russian forces struck the region of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine Sunday morning, according to Gov. Vitaliy Kim. Two settlements were hit with artillery around 6 a.m. local time, Kim said. According to preliminary information, no one was killed or injured in the strikes, though Kim said the extent of the damage was still being clarified.
  • Balloons spotted by Ukraine’s Armed Forces over Kyiv and Dnipro in the past week were probably Russian, said Britain’s Defense Ministry. The balloons, which carried radar reflectors, “likely represent a new tactic by Russia to gain information about Ukrainian air defence systems and compel the Ukrainians to expend valuable stocks of surface to air missiles and ammunition,” the ministry said. One such balloon may have drifted from Ukraine into Moldovan airspace, the ministry said, leading that country to temporarily close its airspace on Feb. 14.
  • Ukraine cut power to some regions Saturday in preemptive outages that were “required to protect networks and generation facilities from another Russian missile attack,” Zelensky said. By the end of the day, though, most of Ukraine had electricity, except for Odessa, which was still recovering from recent bombardments, and damage from wind gusts, he said.
  • Two explosions were reported in Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine on Saturday, the regional governor, Serhiy Hamaliy, said on Telegram. Two people were wounded, Hamaliy said. Ukraine’s military said in an update Saturday evening that Russian forces launched 16 missiles in the city and wider region, damaging residential buildings and wounding civilians.

Global impact

  • The West is showing Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine’s allies will not “lose our nerve,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the security conference. In his speech, Sunak urged allies to send more support, and he mentioned his nation’s vow to send longer-range missiles and other military aid.
  • The Dutch government is limiting the number of Russian diplomats allowed in the Netherlands and closing the Russian trade office in Amsterdam, citing “Russia’s continued attempts to place intelligence officers into the Netherlands under diplomatic cover.”
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Turkey and meet with government officials in the wake of devastating earthquakes there. Blinken will attempt Sunday to convince Ankara to support Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO, Reuters reported. The process of adding countries to the alliance requires unanimity among existing members, and Turkey is the main holdout. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Sweden of being a haven for members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey and others consider a terrorist group. He has also criticized recent protests in Stockholm by an anti-Islam activist.

From our correspondents

While world leaders meet in Munich, antiwar demonstrators gather outside: As the officials vow to step up military support for Ukraine, some protesters on the streets of Munich are calling for an end to the nearly year-old conflict. Anti-NATO and anti-American sentiment, long a fringe issue, has bubbled up since the start of the conflict. A mix of far right and far left, peaceniks and pro-Russian citizens were among the 10,000 demonstrators gathered Saturday, The Post’s Loveday Morris reports.

“It is not our arms deliveries that are prolonging the war,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a speech to the security forum aimed at putting Germans at ease. “The opposite is true.” A little over half of the population supports arming Ukraine, but divisions remain.

Emily Rauhala contributed reporting.