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Ukraine's peace summit may take place on Feb 24: Ambassador

The IAEA established the support and assistance mission at the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that the Russian forces caused the deadly collapse of a residential building in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro

08:05 2022-02-25
Kyiv plunges into chaos as Russia launches 'special military operation'
Cars drive towards the exit of the city in Kyiv, Ukraine Feb 24, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV -- Kyiv has plunged into chaos after Russian forces launched a military offensive against Ukraine.

Terrified people have been queuing for hours to get fuel, food and medicine.

Many left Kyiv to seek shelter in western Ukraine, building up kilometers-long traffic jams.

"We were not able to leave, there were terrible traffic jams... We saw people walking from Kyiv just along the highway, with children, animals, suitcases," 28-year-old Iryna told Xinhua.

Iryna was forced to return to her home in Kyiv.

"Today we will sleep in the dressing room, there are no windows there," Iryna said.

Oksana, a 40-year-old manager, said she was hiding in an underground parking area after an air defense alarm in Kyiv.

"I keep my bag at the door, I'm afraid that the attack on the city will continue," Oksana said.

Oksana lives on the left bank of Kyiv. She said explosions were heard near her home the whole day.

"Like all people in my country, I am scared," she added, crying.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia launched a military operation against Ukraine.

07:42 2022-02-25
Putin discusses Ukraine issue with state leaders
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a video address in Moscow, Russia, in a still image taken from video footage released Feb 24, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin held telephone conversations with leaders of several countries, the Kremlin said Thursday.

Putin had a telephone conversation with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, explaining how the situation around Ukraine is evolving.

Raisi expressed understanding with respect to Russia's security concerns caused by the destabilizing actions of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Issues relating to the diplomatic efforts to preserve and fully implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program were reviewed, the Kremlin said, adding that it was noted that reaching a final agreement on the JCPOA would contribute to regional stability and security.

Putin also briefed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about Moscow's stance on the Ukraine issue.

"When discussing the situation, Putin outlined his fundamental assessments of Kiev's aggressive actions against the civilian population of Donbass, as well as about Kiev's many years of destructive policy aimed at breaking the Minsk agreements," the Kremlin said.

Modi thanked Putin for the clarification and asked for assistance in ensuring the security of Indian citizens currently in Ukraine.

Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron also discussed the situation in Ukraine during a phone conversation.

According to the Kremlin, both sides had a "serious and frank" exchange of views on the situation around Ukraine.

The Kremlin added that Putin gave "comprehensive explanations of the reasons and circumstances for the decision to conduct a special military operation."

Putin on Thursday authorized "a special military operation" in the Donbass region, and Ukraine confirmed that military targets across the country were under attack.

07:04 2022-02-25
China understands Russia's security concerns, FM says
By WANG QINGYUN
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. [Photo/Xinhua]

China always respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, and also understands Russia's reasonable security concerns, as a complicated and special history lies behind the Ukraine issue, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday.

Talking with Lavrov over the phone, Wang said China calls for a complete renunciation of any Cold War mentality, as well as a security system for Europe that is balanced, effective and sustainable and achieved through talks and negotiations.

Lavrov said Russia was forced to take necessary measures as the United States and NATO went back on their promises of not expanding the organization eastward, refused to implement the Minsk II agreement and violated Resolution 2202 of the United Nations Security Council.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday that Russia, an independent major country, decides and implements its diplomacy and strategies based on its own judgment and national interests.

She said that China-Russia ties are non-alliance, non-confrontation and do not target any third parties.

Hua made the remarks at a news conference after US State Department spokesman Ned Price said China should urge Russia to "back down" and "de-escalate" tensions with Ukraine, and added the growing China-Russia partnership is "concerning".

On the US suggestion that Moscow made the move because it had gained China's support, Hua said she believed the Russian side will be "very displeased to hear such a notion".

China-Russia ties are fundamentally and essentially different from the "small groups" the US has been pursuing, based along ideological lines, to create confrontation and separation, Hua said. "China is not interested in, and does not intend to imitate the 'enemy or friend' Cold War mentality or the practice of patching up so-called 'alliances' and 'small cliques'," she added.

Hua said the US is unqualified to tell China what to do about respecting state sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China has consistently and firmly safeguarded the UN Charter's tenets and principles, as well as the basic norms guiding international relations, Hua said.

However, in the 250 years since its foundation, the US has only refrained from waging military operations in other countries for less than 20 years, she said.

"Such a country surely has a different understanding of respecting state sovereignty and territorial integrity than we do," Hua said. "The international community knows this clearly."

When asked whether China has provided or plans to provide any weapons to Russia, Hua said China does not take the initiative to provide weapons to others facing the risk of conflict, "unlike when the US provided a large amount of military equipment to Ukraine".

06:47 2022-02-25
Putin aims to demilitarize Ukraine
By REN QI in Moscow
At a subway station in Kyiv, Ukraine, a crowd of people, some carrying bags and suitcases, are on the move early on Thursday. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation had been launched that day in Ukraine, and explosions could be heard soon after across the country. DANIEL LEAL/AFP

Kyiv severs relations with Moscow, offers to arm citizens who want to fight

Tensions escalated over the Ukraine situation on Thursday as Russian troops launched a "special military operation" authorized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Kyiv decides to sever ties with Russia.

Putin said in a televised urgent address that the operation was launched after the "authorities of Donetsk and Lugansk" requested assistance in "repelling Kyiv's military aggression".

He said that Moscow would seek the "demilitarization and denazification" of Ukraine, called upon the Ukrainian army to lay down its weapons and that any attempts at foreign intervention would be met with a prompt response.

Moscow's plans do not include an occupation of Ukraine, Putin said, adding that the Ukrainian people have a right to self-determination.

He also said that Russia could not allow Kyiv to obtain nuclear weapons and recalled NATO's "illegitimate expansion" to the east.

Shortly after Putin spoke, reports emerged that there were explosions in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and power had been cut.

Reuters reported that Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities starting on Thursday morning. Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders into the eastern Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Lugansk regions, and landings by sea made at the cities of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.

Russia's Defense Ministry reported later on Thursday that Russian troops were not striking Ukrainian cities. It emphasized that Ukrainian military infrastructure was being destroyed by precision weapons.

According to the ministry, Ukraine's air defenses had been suppressed, military airfield infrastructure had been damaged and Ukrainian border guards were not putting up any resistance to Russian troops.

Smoke rises on Thursday from a military airport in Chuguyev, near Kharkiv, Ukraine. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP

Explosions could be heard before dawn in Kyiv. Gunfire rattled out near the main airport and sirens blared across the city.

Ukraine's President Zelensky announced that diplomatic relations with Russia had been cut, the country's state media Interfax-Ukraine reported.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament endorsed a presidential order declaring martial law.

Zelensky also called on all citizens who were ready to defend the country to come forward, saying Kyiv would issue weapons to everyone who wants them.

The Kyiv government sounded air raid sirens more than once in the morning. People poured into supermarkets to buy water and food, and roads toward the west were blocked by massive traffic jams as residents tried to escape the capital.

A resident of Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, the closest big city to the Russian border, said windows in apartment buildings were shaking from constant blasts. The city was gripped by panic as people tried to flee, said the resident, who asked not to be identified.

Meanwhile, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine announced in the morning that the border with Belarus had been attacked by troops from Russia and Belarus.

CNN reported tanks from the Belarusian Armed Forces moving from Belarus to Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko denied the report, saying his country had not participated in Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

Lukashenko added, however, that Belarusian troops could be used in the operation against Ukraine if needed.

Russia claimed that two Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 jets had been shot down, and lots of Ukrainian government soldiers in Lugansk refused to take orders and began leaving the front line.

But the Ukrainian military soon denied that and said they had shot down six Russian fighter jets and helicopters. They said one of their military units in Odessa had been attacked by a Russian airstrike, leaving six dead, seven wounded and 19 missing.

Agencies contributed to this story.

20:29 2022-02-24
US' perverse policy led to a multi-lose tragedy
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Feb 22, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

What has befallen Ukraine is by no means what United States President Joe Biden called "an unprovoked and unjustified attack" by Russia. It is his administration that has continuously escalated the tensions by steadfastly ignoring Russia's security concerns and forcing Moscow to accept that the threatening expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was not a matter for negotiation.

In saying that "we are not going to be in a war with Russia or putting military troops on the ground fighting Russia" on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made it clear that the Biden administration was inviting such a move.

In the Washington's calculations, sucking Russia into Ukraine no doubt offers the United States a number of benefits. It can claim the moral high ground and continue to portray Russia as being an agent of evil, and by default any countries that are friendly with it.

With the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project suspended, something that has long been a thorn in the flesh of the US economy and its policy approach toward Europe, the European countries will have to rely more on energy resources from the US or the energy providers it controls, although at a higher price, binding their economies closer to it.

It also helps breathe life into "brain-dead" NATO so that the US can tighten the security shackles it has imposed upon European countries and which they were trying to loosen. The European countries have predictably indicated that they intend to tie themselves closer to the US security umbrella, scuppering any notions the European Union may have had of greater autonomy in its foreign relations.

It helps support the dollar hegemony that is propping up the US economy as well. As one of the major grain producers in the world and main food exporter to Europe, the war in Ukraine will directly affect its grain output and aggravate Europe's dependence on US grains. And no doubt any Western sanctions will target trade with Russia, which means alternatives will need to be found that will in all probability require dollar transactions.

What Russia seeks is a buffer zone. What the US pursues is to deny that while regaining its control over Europe. Washington worries that the increasingly independence awareness the Europeans gained during the long tenure of Angela Merkel as the German chancellor, if unchecked, could lead to a transatlantic divorce. That's also why the Biden administration stresses a "value alliance", which is not only to contain China but also to impose a "moral" obligation on the Europeans.

To avoid the fallout from the crisis worsening, the European countries need to finally break the shackles imposed by the US overlording their security by demonstrating the courage and wisdom to guide the resolution of the crisis to the negotiation table.

19:57 2022-02-24
China opposes any act of inciting war: FM spokesperson
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying is seen at regular news briefing in Beijing on Feb 23, 2022. [Photo/www.fmprc.gov.cn]

BEIJING -- China opposes any act of inciting war and has taken a responsible attitude from the very beginning to persuade all parties not to escalate tensions and incite war, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a daily press briefing in response to queries on the Ukraine issue, noting that the United States has sent at least 1.5 billion dollars' worth of over 1,000 tons of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.

"At that time, if all the parties had promoted peace talks, reviewed the historical context of the Ukraine issue, respected and accommodated each other's security concerns, and resolved the issue in a reasonable, proper way for a soft landing of the situation, what would be happening now?" Hua asked.

The culprit of the tensions should now consider how to put out the fire as soon as possible with concrete actions, instead of blaming others, she said.

19:27 2022-02-24
Chinese, Russian FMs hold phone conversation
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. [Photo/Agencies]

BEIJING - Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday held a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov briefed Wang on the evolution of the situation in Ukraine and Russia's position, saying that the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have broken their commitments, continuously expanded eastward, refused to implement the new Minsk agreement and violated the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2202.

Russia was forced to take necessary measures to safeguard its own rights and interests, Lavrov added.

Noting that China has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, Wang said that China recognizes the complex and special historical context of the Ukraine issue and understands Russia's legitimate security concerns.

China maintains that the Cold War mentality should be completely abandoned and a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism should be finally established through dialogue and negotiation, Wang said.

17:42 2022-02-24
Ukraine severs diplomatic relations with Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the nation after a meeting of the Security and Defense Council in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb 22, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday Kyiv decides to sever diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russia launched military operations in Donbass, the government-run Ukrinform news agency reported.

"Ukraine is defending itself," Zelensky said in a televised address. He added that more than 40 Ukrainian soldiers and around 10 civilians were killed in the conflict.

Earlier Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the "special military operation," and Ukraine confirmed that military installations across the country were under attack.

16:00 2022-02-24
UN chief asks Putin to bring troops back to Russia
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an interaction with the media after a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine with Russia, in New York City, US, Feb 23, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Wednesday night asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to bring troops back to Russia shortly after Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine.

"I must say, President Putin: In the name of humanity bring your troops back to Russia. In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century," the top UN official told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York after the Security Council emergency meeting on Ukraine concluded.

At a moment when the world is emerging from COVID-19 and so many developing countries absolutely need to have space for the recovery, it would be "very, very difficult, with the high prices of oil, with the end of exports of wheat from Ukraine, and with the rising interest rates caused by instability in international markets", Guterres said.

Noting it is "the saddest moment" in his tenure as the UN chief, Guterres called on Putin to stop the conflicts and "give peace a chance".

14:40 2022-02-24
Ukraine declares martial law following Russia's military operation
General view of Kyiv on Feb 24, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday declared martial law in the country after Russia started a military operation against Ukraine.

In a video address, Zelensky said his country is under attack. According to the Interior Ministry, military depots and airfields in the capital were hit by missiles.

In Kyiv, explosions were heard at Boryspil International Airport and other places across the city, according to media reports. The country's airspace was closed for civilian aircraft.

14:25 2022-02-24
War for gas behind Ukraine crisis
By Chen Hongbin
Gas prices over $5.00 per gallon are displayed at a Shell station on Nov 17, 2021 in Hercules, California. [Photo/Agencies]

The Ukrainian crisis has worsened with the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Australia imposing sanctions on Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of Ukraine's breakaway enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday. But apart from geopolitical factors, other factors are also at play, most importantly, the fight for economic interests, behind the intensifying confrontation between the US and Russia over Ukraine.

The US' shale gas production has surged in recent years. Between 2016 and 2020, US natural gas production increased from 727.4 billion cubic meters to 914.6 billion cubic meters, accounting for 85 percent of the increase in global natural gas supply.

Rising production has also made the US one of the main exporters of natural gas in the world. For instance, the US exported 137.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2020, accounting for 11 percent of the global natural gas trade, second only to Russia. By the end of this year, the US is likely to have the world's largest liquefied natural gas export capacity, by overtaking Australia and Qatar.

About 80 percent of the natural gas the US produces is consumed domestically, with rest being exported. About 55 percent of the natural gas the US exported in 2020 was supplied to Canada and Mexico through pipelines. It's hard for the US to further increase imports to the two countries, since Mexico has limited demands while Canada itself is a major natural gas producer too.

And although Mexico's demand for natural gas has not changed much, the same cannot be said about Canada, because it is one of the major natural gas producers in the world.

So the US is desperate to explore new buyers for its natural gas.

About 41.7 percent of the US' LNG exports in 2020 was destined for the European market, followed by Japan, the Republic of Korea and China, which together account for 30.6 percent. But China, whose demand for natural is high, imports only 5 percent of the US' LNG exports, which is unlikely to change given the worsening relations between the two sides.

Also, compared with the main LNG exporters to the Northeast Asian market such as Qatar and Australia, the US has many disadvantages such as high extraction costs and long transportation distances. Besides, in the medium to long term, US LNG will face fierce competition from high-quality but relatively cheap Russian pipeline natural gas. So it is difficult for the US to become the main LNG exporter to countries such as Japan and the ROK.

That is precisely why the strategic significance of the European market has become increasingly important for the US.

As the world's third-largest natural gas consuming region, Europe is highly dependent on natural gas imports and has long been the largest buyer of the US LNG. And the fact that Europe is expeditiously transforming its energy structure to achieve carbon neutrality has raised the demand for natural gas in the region, which the US wants to capitalize on.

But for years, Europe has been highly dependent on Russian pipeline gas. In fact, it imports more than 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Therefore, if the US wants to change the pattern of the existing natural gas market in Europe, it has to find a way to push Russia out of the European market.

Since the intensifying standoff between Russia and Ukraine and the resulting Western sanctions against Moscow will halt the supply of Russian natural gas to Europe creating fuel shortage in the region, the US sees it as a golden opportunity to increase its LNG exports to the region.

But the high cost of US LNG still makes it difficult for Washington to squeeze Moscow out of the European market. Russia's production cost has remained at $0.75-0.9 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in recent years, while the US' shale gas extraction cost is about $1.6-3/MMBtu. Plus, the transportation cost of US LNG is also higher than Russian pipeline gas, because the US needs to supply the fuel across the Atlantic while Russia is close to the European market and has obvious advantages in terms of transportation cost.

The US LNG exports to Europe had been only marginally profitable, but the Ukraine crisis has made the business lucrative. The cost of US LNG to Europe is $5-8/MMBtu, and the Dutch TTF natural gas price was below this range for most of the past three years.

Before April 2021, the LNG trade between the US and Europe yielded meager profits for Washington. But after the Ukraine crisis broke out in March last year, the price of natural gas in Europe increased — in fact, it increased by 10 times from the beginning to the end 2021. LNG exports to Europe offers huge profit margins to the US, and it is estimated that in the second and third quarters of 2021 alone, the US' net profit from LNG trade with Europe exceeded $2 billion.

However, access to the European natural gas market is not the main reason why the US has triggered the Russia-Ukraine confrontation. But by doing so the US can pave the way for its huge investments in political, economic and military resources in eastern Ukraine.

No wonder the US Congress approved $200 million in new defense aid to Ukraine in December last year, and the US embassy in Kiev confirmed that parts of the aid arrived in the country on Jan 22. This is not only a sure bet compared with increasing LNG exports to Europe, but will also meet the US' long-term strategic interests and short-term economic interests.

The author is chief economist of Sealand Securities.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

If you have a specific expertise, or would like to share your thought about our stories, then send us your writings at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.

 

14:10 2022-02-24
Russia closes airspace on borders with Ukraine, Belarus
Photo taken on Feb 21, 2022 shows a screen displaying Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking during a televised address to the nation in Moscow. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW - Russia closed its airspace to civilian aircraft on Thursday on its western borders with Ukraine and Belarus, the Russian aviation authorities announced, shortly after President Vladimir Putin authorized a "special military operation" in the Donbass region.

"Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force," said Putin.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian Armed Forces are destroying "military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields, aviation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces" with high-precision weapons, not targeting Ukrainian cities.

13:46 2022-02-24
Explosions rock Ukrainian key airport, military facilities: media

KYIV - A series of explosions hit Ukraine's largest airport Boryspil and several military objects in eastern and southern Ukraine early Thursday, according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

The Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry said it was evacuating passengers and staff from Boryspil.

Media reports said there were also attacks in Kharkiv city in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border, in Kramatorsk town in the frontline in eastern Ukraine, in Vasylkiv city near Kyiv, in Dnipro city in central Ukraine as well as in the southern port city of Odesa.

11:14 2022-02-24
Putin authorizes 'special military operation' in Donbass region
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a video address in Moscow, Russia, in a still image taken from video footage released Feb 24, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW/KYIV - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday authorized "a special military operation" in the Donbass region, and Ukraine confirmed that military targets across the country were under attack.

"Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force," Putin said in a televised speech to the nation, noting that Russia's move is in response to "fundamental threats" of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which has expanded to eastern Europe and brought its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders.

Putin called on all people living on the territory of Ukraine to "independently determine the future of their own and children".

In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, explosions were heard at Boryspil International Airport and other places across the city, according to local media reports. The country's airspace was closed for civilian aircraft, and local authorities were evacuating passengers and staff from the airport.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday declared martial law in the country following Russia's military operation.

In a video address, Zelensky said his country is under attack. According to the Interior Ministry, military depots and airfields in the capital were hit by missiles.

Putin on Monday signed two decrees recognizing "the Lugansk People's Republic" and "the Donetsk People's Republic" as independent and sovereign states and deployed "peacekeeping" forces in the two regions.

Seeing it as "a matter of time" for NATO to expand eastward, Putin took military actions against Ukraine after his recent negotiations with the United States and NATO failed.

Russia will not allow Ukraine to have nuclear weapons, he said Thursday, adding that Russia took action to protect itself from "those who take Ukraine hostage".

In case of external interference in the situation in Ukraine, Russia will respond immediately, Putin said.

In a late-night address Wednesday, Zelensky said he had unsuccessfully sought talks with Putin. "I initiated a telephone call with the president of the Russian Federation. Result: silence."

While mobilizing troops, Russia closed its airspace to civilian aircraft on its western borders with Ukraine and Belarus, the aviation authorities said Thursday.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian Armed Forces are destroying "military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields, aviation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces" with high-precision weapons, not targeting Ukrainian cities.

Besides Kiev, several military targets in eastern and southern Ukraine were under attack early Thursday, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

Shortly after Putin announced the military operation in Ukraine, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday night called on Russia to withdraw its troops.

If the military action would lead to a generalized war, "it is difficult to forecast how dramatic it will be in the number of people who will die, in the number of people who will be displaced, in the number of people who will lose hope in relation to the future," Guterres told reporters following a Security Council emergency meeting on Ukraine.

To rally support of the West, Zelensky has reached out to US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron over phone.

During the call, Biden briefed his Ukrainian counterpart on the steps Washington is taking "to rally international condemnation," adding that the United States "will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people", according to a White House statement.

Biden also said he will meet with other leaders of the Group of Seven countries on Thursday.

The United States has announced what it called "the first tranche" of punitive measures on Russia -- sanctions on two major Russian banks and on the country's sovereign debt, preventing Moscow from raising money from the West and trading new debt in US or European markets. It also sanctioned Russian elites and their family members.

09:26 2022-02-24
UN, partners continue delivering aid to both sides of contact line in Ukraine
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. [Photo/Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations and partners are attempting to meet the needs of people on both sides of the contact line in Ukraine despite volatile hostilities and limited funds, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.

"Our colleagues in (Ukraine) continue to receive reports of hostilities impacting civilians and their properties, as well as infrastructure on both sides of the 'contact line,'" said Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "Once again, we call on all parties to take all measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure."

He told reporters in a regular briefing, "despite the volatile security situation the United Nations and its humanitarian partners in eastern Ukraine are making all efforts to respond to the needs of people on both sides of that line."

Guterres earlier said in a speech at a General Assembly session on Ukraine how the global body works in the field during such hostilities. "Our humanitarian operations are independent of whoever might control the territory where people are living."

He said that since the start of the year, the world organization and its partners delivered 140 metric tons of life-saving aid across the contact line.

"Here again, our actions are based entirely on humanitarian principles endorsed by the General Assembly," the UN chief said. "United Nations humanitarian assistance is guided by four humanitarian principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence."

Guterres added that the principles are central to establishing and maintaining access to affected people, including those in the context of an armed conflict.

Dujarric said the existing Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022 has been funded by less than 10 percent.

"We are calling on donors to prioritize their support to this plan, which seeks 190 million US dollars to address the needs of 1.8 million of the most vulnerable people on both sides of the 'contact line,'" the spokesman said, adding that limited funding limits response efforts on both sides.

The contact line separates the breakaway states in the easternmost Donbass region from the rest of Ukraine.

08:08 2022-02-24
China envoy calls for diplomatic solution to Ukraine crisis
By MINLU ZHANG in New York
Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN. [Photo/Agencies]

China's position on safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states "has been consistent", China's ambassador to the United Nations said on Wednesday, as he called for upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and urged a diplomatic solution to resolve the Ukraine issue.

"China has been paying attention to the evolving situation in Ukraine," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said at the plenary meeting of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on Ukraine. "The purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be jointly upheld.

"At the same time, we note that the issue of Ukraine is rooted in a complex web of historical and present factors. An interplay of those factors has driven the situation to this point," said Zhang. "In the current context, all parties concerned should exercise restraint and avoid taking any action that may aggravate tensions."

The envoy said China calls on all parties to recognize the importance of implementing the principle of indivisible security; to continue to engage in dialogue and consultation; and to seek reasonable solutions that address each other's concerns through peaceful means on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

"We welcome and encourage all efforts aimed at facilitating a diplomatic solution," he said.

Ukraine declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and told millions of its citizens living in Russia to return home amid the ongoing tensions with Russia.

The emergency measure will start on Feb 24 and would last for 30 days and can be extended for an extra 30 days. The measures will be in force nationwide, aside from the two breakaway regions.

The state of emergency would allow authorities to adopt heightened security measures, including imposing curfews if deemed necessary. It also includes personal document checks, blocks military reservists from leaving the country, bans mass gatherings and places restrictions on radio communication systems.

07:13 2022-02-24
Putin seeks 'honest' talks with West
By REN QI in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin. [Photo/Agencies]

Russian leader's offer for more dialogue on Ukraine comes amid fresh sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a direct and honest dialogue with the West over the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday amid the latest rounds of sanctions announced by the United States and Europe.

"Our country is always open for direct and honest dialogue, for the search for diplomatic solutions to the most complex problems," Putin said in a video address to mark the Defender of the Fatherland Day, a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of current and former personnel in the Russian Armed Forces.

In his speech, Putin congratulated the country's service personnel, saying he was certain of the "professionalism" of the Russian military in standing up for Russia's national interests.

He praised the battle-readiness of the Russian army and said the country would continue to develop state-of-the-art weapons.

"The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens, are nonnegotiable for us," he said.

"We will continue to develop advanced weapon systems, including hypersonic and those based on new physical principles, and expand the use of advanced digital technologies and elements of artificial intelligence."

Putin spoke after parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, on Tuesday gave him unanimous approval to deploy "peacekeepers" to two Ukrainian regions-"the Lugansk People's Republic" and "the Donetsk People's Republic"-now recognized by Moscow as independent and sovereign states.

Some 153 Russian senators backed the decision, Russian media reported.

On Wednesday, Russia started evacuating its diplomatic staff from all of its diplomatic facilities in Ukraine, the TASS news agency reported, citing a representative of Russia's embassy in Kyiv.

One day earlier, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said: "Negotiations have stalled. The Ukrainian leadership has taken the path of violence and bloodshed." He was speaking during a session of the Federation Council called at Putin's request.

Preventing aggression

Also on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had established diplomatic relations with the two regions.

The moves from Russia triggered the latest round of sanctions by the West.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced tough sanctions in response to Russia's "beginning" an invasion of Ukraine, but said there was still time to avoid war.

Biden announced what he called the "first tranche" of sanctions, including steps to starve Russia of financing and target financial institutions and the country's "elites".

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the bloc's members agreed on a package of new sanctions against Russia targeting the members of parliament that backed recognition of the two Ukrainian regions as independent states.

The EU sanctions will blacklist more Russian politicians, lawmakers and officials, ban EU investors from trading in Russian state bonds, and target imports and exports with some entities. However, EU foreign ministers chose not to sanction Putin, Borrell said.

Japan, Australia and Canada followed suit early on Wednesday with their own stringent penalties for Moscow and individuals.

Russia's foreign ministry on Wednesday said it would respond strongly to the new US sanctions in a way that would be sensitive and weighted toward Washington.

Agencies contributed to this story.

07:07 2022-02-24
Russia's de-dollarization drive more than symbolic
By Xu Wenhong
[Photo/IC]

The Ukraine crisis is showing little sign of being resolved. The United States and the European Union have imposed a new tranche of sanctions on Russia, especially in financial field, aimed at increasing Russia's financing costs and weakening its economy.

Russia started "de-dollarizing" its economy years ago, to minimize the impact of the financial sanctions the United States and the European Union had been threatening to impose on the country. Unhappy with the US dollar's domination of the global economy despite the declining US economy, Russia has implemented de-dollarization policies to safeguard its monetary sovereignty, offset the impact of the financial sanctions by the US and the EU, and make the international financial order more dynamic.

Global debates on the possible collapse of the US dollar have been going on for nearly 50 years. In recent years, the debates have become increasingly fierce. Yet the dollar's hegemony continues, to a large extent.

How de-dollarization policies will play out

According to International Monetary Fund data, the share of the US dollar in global foreign exchange reserves was 59 percent in 1995, increasing to 59.02 percent in 2020. So it will be very difficult for Russia to end the dollar's domination of the global financial order. Besides, there is a huge gap in the economic strengths of Russia and the US, with the former's GDP being $1.71 trillion and the latter's nearly $23 trillion in 2021.

Given these facts, what are the prospects and significance of Russia's de-dollarization policy?

Russia and some other countries have introduced de-dollarization policies because the US uses the dollar as a weapon to impose sanctions on the countries, and the foremost anti-sanction measure is de-dollarization.

With the US imposing sanctions on other countries at the drop of a hat, in order to demand its pound of flesh, more and more countries are coming together to issue joint de-dollarization policies. Since about 10 percent of the countries and one quarter of the global population are suffering because of US sanctions, the de-dollarization trend is intensifying across the world.

After the 2008 global financial crisis, the US economy continued to hollow out, although the Federal Reserve kept resorting to quantitative easing. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the over-issuing of US dollars greatly increased in scale, leading to the dollar bond losing credit. This has resulted in the decline in the status and influence of the dollar in the global economic system, prompting Russia and some other countries to gradually clear the dollar bonds by increasing the share of the euro or other currencies in their foreign exchange reserves.

In the global currency competition, the dollar and the euro are generally balanced. The countermeasures against the "dollar trap" may lead to a multi-polar currency pattern. Just as the British pound gradually declined along with the British Empire, the dominant role of the dollar as the global currency too can be undermined sooner or later.

However, it is difficult for countries to take concerted de-dollarization measures since their interests differ. And the US uses the differences in interests to take them on one by one.

As such, the rivalry between the US, which is taking measures to maintain the dollar's hegemony, and countries such as Russia, which have launched de-dollarization policies, will create profound political and economic uncertainties. Also, Russia-US relations will become even more confrontational, especially in the fields of economy and finance, leading to more uncertainties in the international economic and financial order.

Yet the international payment system could undergo many changes. In the future, the international payment structure could be a combination of many options, including SWIFT(Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) and the payment systems followed by the EU, China, Russia and other economies.

In fact, the interconnection between the payment systems of the EU, China and Russia could be the focus of economic and financial work of all countries to avoid the dollar hegemony in the future.

Dollar's hegemony lasts, but perhaps not forever

But Russia's ruble cannot replace the US dollar as an international currency in the near future. It is realistic to believe that Russia would take the lead in the construction of a new global financial order. Russia still lags behind the US and developed European countries when it comes to efficient allocation of market resources, which is a reflection of their financial strength, capital market perception, size of economy, infrastructure and the abundance of financial products. So Russia still has a long way to go to catch up with the advanced Western economies.

The wide gap between Russia and those economies in these areas will be an important factor affecting Russia's de-dollarization policy.

However, gold and digital currency will be important tools in Russia's de-dollarization drive. Many countries regard gold as an important tool for "de-dollarization", and Russia and some other countries have hoarded huge amounts of gold to secure their economies.

Also, digital currency, as a product of blockchain and digital technology, is a distinct virtual product of the digital age and sets the direction for future development. And the digital currencies issued by central banks will contribute to the de-dollarization drive.

Russia has made some key achievements in the field of digital currency, with the Russian digital financial assets law coming into effect in 2021 and Moscow carrying out the legislative work on the "digital ruble" in the second half of 2021. These developments will help Russia gain some advantages in digital currency and further promote its de-dollarization drive.

The significance of Russia's de-dollarization drive is that it is the most radical of de-dollarization measures taken by countries using other currencies. Russia has not only implemented de-dollarization measures domestically, but is also taking some tough measures in financial information exchange and international energy settlement currency. Because of Russia's resolute de-dollarizing measures and its vigorous efforts to deepen international cooperation, more and more countries are following in its footsteps to de-dollarize their economies or assisting it in its de-dollarization drive.

Therefore, we can say Russia's de-dollarization drive has had a global impact.

That some countries want to de-dollarize their economies shows the dissatisfaction with the US dollar's hegemony in the global financial and payment systems, concerns over the over-issuance of the dollar, the call for changing the dollar-based Bretton Woods system, and the need to change the current international economic and financial orders, so as to make them fairer and more balanced.

Although the de-dollarization drive cannot end the dollar's influence on the Russian economy in a short time, Russia has shown the world that the dollar's hegemony can be challenged and perhaps weakened in the long run.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

The author is deputy secretary general of the One Belt One Road Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

If you have a specific expertise, or would like to share your thought about our stories, then send us your writings at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.

06:53 2022-02-24
US adding fuel to Ukraine crisis 'irresponsible'
By MO JINGXI
A Russian carries a child at a railway station where a train carrying people evacuated from eastern Ukraine arrived in Volzhsky, Russia, on Sunday. [DMITRY ROGULIN/TASS]

Door to issue's peaceful resolution has not fully closed, spokeswoman says

China accused the United States on Wednesday of fueling tensions and creating panic on the Ukraine issue, and urged all parties concerned to be responsible and work for peace.

"It is irresponsible to add fuel to the flames on the one hand while blaming those who fight the fire on the other hand," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.

Unlike the US, which keeps sending weapons to Ukraine, China believes the door to a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine issue has not fully closed, and it will continue to promote peace talks in its own way, Hua said.

"We welcome and encourage all efforts that are committed to diplomatic resolution," she said.

The spokeswoman said that those who accused China of contradicting its stance on respecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity were "either driven by ulterior motives or deliberately distorting or misinterpreting China".

"The Ukraine issue has its complex historical background, and its involvement until now is the result of the interplay among different and complex factors," Hua said.

It is important to understand the whole story behind the Ukraine issue in order to find a rational and peaceful resolution and appropriately solve related parties' reasonable security concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect, she said.

"When the US, in violation of its agreement with Russia, expanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization eastward five times to the doorstep of Russia and deployed a large amount of offensive military weapons, have they ever considered the consequences of cornering a major power to a desperate situation?" she asked.

The principle of indivisible security, which broadly states that the security of any state is inseparable from others in its region, has been written into several documents that Russia has signed with the US, including the Helsinki Final Act.

But the US obviously didn't abide by its commitments, Hua said, adding that the US has not responded to Russia's security guarantee proposals.

"China believes that no country or bloc should seek the so-called maximization of their security interests, as security should be common, cooperative and sustainable, and Russia's security concerns should be valued and resolved," she said.

On Tuesday, the US and its European allies announced an array of sanctions against Russia, with measures included blacklisting two major banks and halting the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Hua said that China never thinks sanctions are the best way to solve problems and opposes any illegal unilateral sanction.

Statistics from the US Treasury Department showed that the previous US administration issued about 3,800 new sanctions. Since 2011, the US has imposed more than 100 sanctions on Russia.

"But did the US sanctions solve any problem? Does the world become better because of the US sanctions? Will the Ukraine issue be naturally resolved thanks to US sanctions? Will European security be better guaranteed with the US sanctions against Russia?" Hua asked.

Noting that the illegal unilateral sanctions issued by the US already caused severe difficulties to relevant countries' economies and livelihood, Hua said that the US should not undermine the legitimate rights and interests of China and other parties when dealing with the Ukraine issue and US relations with Russia.

Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said that the US is provoking tensions and adding risks to the Ukraine issue by providing offensive weapons such as antitank missiles to Ukraine.

"The US is not de-escalating the situation as it said. As long as the Ukraine crisis continues, the US can keep high pressure on Russia while maintaining control of its European allies through NATO," Ruan said.

08:00 2022-02-24
Ukraine imposes state of emergency over tensions with Russia
Students gather near a demining armoured vehicle of Ukraine's State Emergency Service during bomb threat training at a local school following a recent spate of hoax bomb threats in public institutions in Kyiv, Ukraine Jan 27, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - The Ukrainian Parliament on Wednesday supported a bill to introduce a state of emergency in the country starting Feb 24 amid the ongoing tensions with Russia, according to the parliament's press service.

The legislation, introducing the state of emergency in all Ukrainian regions except for the conflict-hit Lugansk and Donetsk regions, for 30 days, was supported by 335 lawmakers in the 450-seat parliament.

In the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where a Joint Forces Operation is underway, a special legal regime has been already in effect.

According to Interfax-Ukraine news agency, the state of emergency in 22 Ukrainian regions envisages a ban on holding mass meetings and protests, on changing the place of residence by those liable for military service, and on the production of information materials that can destabilize the situation in the country.

The new law also stipulates for restriction of freedom of movement, inspections of vehicles, premises and personal belongings of citizens, and the introduction of a curfew if the need arises.

Besides, it provides for the evacuation of residents from places where there is a danger to the lives of people.

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council proposed the parliament introduce a state of emergency across the country due to the buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border.

Earlier in the day, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) of Ukraine imposed special measures in regions bordering Russia, Belarus and those having access to the seas.

The measures include the limitation of movement of private vehicles and floating devices, flights of light planes and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as restrictions on filming and photographing of certain objects.

Since November, Kyiv and some Western countries have accused Russia of assembling heavy troops near the Ukrainian border, including in Belarus, with a possible intention of "invasion."

Denying any intention to attack any country, Russia said it has the right to mobilize troops within its borders to defend its territory, as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's increasing military activities near Russia's borders constitute a threat to Russia's border security.

Reuters

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