If Russia intends to stop communicating with the U.S. about its nuclear forces and missile tests, it apparently hasn’t told the American government.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said Wednesday the Biden administration is aware of remarks to that effect by a top Russian official, but it has not “received any notice indicating a change.”
Earlier Wednesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow has halted all information exchanges with Washington, the latest in a series of decisions widening the political gulf between the two powers as the war in Ukraine roars.
Ryabkov’s proclamation could be yet another attempt by the Kremlin to dissuade the West from boosting its support for Ukraine.
In recent days, President Vladimir Putin said he would station tactical nuclear weapons in the territory of Moscow’s ally Belarus, which shares borders with Russia, Ukraine and three NATO countries in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
In late February, Putin suspended participation in the last nuclear arms agreement with the U.S. Ryabkov’s comments Wednesday came as Russia deployed mobile launchers in Siberia, an apparent show of the country’s huge nuclear capability.
Washington has “across-the-board concerns about Russia’s reckless behavior as it relates to the New START treaty,” Patel said.
The U.S. and Russia have for years shared data about the state of their nuclear forces and exchanged warnings about test launches. The communications helped ensure that neither country mistakes a test launch for a missile attack.
►The Russian defense ministry said strategic military training has begun with the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system, which has a range of about 7,000 miles.
►Spain will send the first six of 10 Leopard 2A4 tanks it has pledged to Ukraine in April, Spanish news outlet El País reported.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping made a highly publicized three-day visit to Moscow last week in what purported to be a peace mission. Now the other party involved in the conflict would like a similar courtesy.
“I want to speak with him,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Associated Press about Xi, inviting him for a meeting in Kyiv.
China has not said whether Xi would accept.
China has been economically aligned and politically favorable toward neighboring Russia across many decades, and Beijing has provided Putin diplomatic cover by staking out an official position of neutrality in the war while criticizing Western sanctions.
“We are ready to see (Xi) here,” Zelenskyy said. “I had contact with him before full-scale war. But during all this year, more than one year, I didn’t have.”
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. would strongly encourage a Xi-Zelenskyy meeting.
The long-expected Ukrainian counteroffensive will feature the Western tanks now arriving in the country and may take place in the coming weeks, a senior Ukrainian official said.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told an Estonian TV station the counteroffensive, aiming to reclaim territory taken by Russian forces, is planned for “several directions. It is important to determine the most appropriate moment. … I think Leopard tanks will appear on the battlefield in April-May.”
Asked to assess the Leopard tanks supplied by several European nations, Reznikov said, “It’s like comparing Zhiguli and Mercedes.” The Zhiguli was a utilitarian, Soviet-made line of cars sold abroad under the name Lada.
The Russian mercenary Wagner Group probably is working to consolidate gains in Bakhmut to push toward the city center and expand its zone of control, a Washington-based think-tank says. The Institute for the Study of War says in its latest assessment that Russian forces appear to have advanced into an additional 5% of Bakhmut in the past week and now occupy roughly 65% of the city.
Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was less measured Wednesday, saying Kyiv’s efforts to defend Bakhmut have “practically destroyed” the Ukrainian army.
Bakhmut is a transportation hub for both sides in the hotly contested Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, and fierce fighting has raged there for months.
Contributing: The Associated Press