Historic trip: Zelensky and Biden
Moscow (AFP) - Russia on Thursday accused Ukraine and the United States of turning a deaf ear to its concerns after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a historic visit to Washington.
Zelensky enjoyed a hero’s welcome on a lightning trip on Wednesday in which US President Joe Biden committed nearly $1.8 billion in military supplies including, for the first time, the Patriot missile defence system.
“We can say with regret that so far neither President Biden nor President Zelensky have said even a few words that could be perceived as potential readiness to listen to Russia’s concerns,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Officials in Moscow over recent months have repeatedly said they have not ruled out talks with Ukraine.
They have blamed the closure of diplomatic channels on Zelensky, who has said he will not negotiate while President Vladimir Putin is in power.
Ukraine: The latest military developments
“Not a single word was heard warning Zelensky against the continued shelling of residential buildings in towns and villages in Donbas and there were no real calls for peace,” Peskov said.
“This suggests that the United States is continuing its line of de facto fighting an indirect war with Russia to the last Ukrainian,” he added.
Zelensky’s snap visit came hours after Putin said Moscow would next year continue developing its military potential and the combat readiness of its nuclear forces.
The Russian leader described the conflict in Ukraine as a “shared tragedy” but placed blame for the outbreak of hostilities on Ukraine and its allies, not Moscow.
- Russia’s Shoigu visits frontline -
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu meanwhile visited troops “on the frontline” of Moscow’s Ukraine offensive, with footage showing Shoigu inspecting barracks and walking through trenches.
The latest US military aid package for Ukraine includes, for the first time, the Patriot air defence system
The ministry did not say where or when the inspection took place.
Ukraine fears a rising onslaught of missiles and has faced a slew of attacks from drones, many bought by Russia from Iran, as Moscow pummels power plants and other civilian infrastructure just as the country shivers in the winter cold.
Zelensky flew in secret to the United States straight after a risky visit to the frontline in Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian troops have both endured heavy tolls over the past two months.
He wore his trademark green military fatigues as he held talks with Biden at the White House and addressed lawmakers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris hold a Ukrainian battle flag donated to Congress by Zelensky, front
He repeatedly thanked the US for its support and handed Congress a Ukrainian flag fresh from the battlefield.
“Against all odds and doom-and-gloom scenarios,” Zelensky said in a speech that drew a standing ovation, “Ukraine is alive and kicking.”
“Your money is not charity,” he added.
“It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
In the southern region surrounding the recently recaptured town of Kherson – which has been shelled persistently by Russian forces – officials said they had uncovered a grave with six people showing “signs of torture” near a private home.
In eastern Ukraine, an AFP reporter visited the frontline village of Bogorodychne, from which the Russians had been pushed out.
Its pre-conflict population of around 1,000 people had been reduced to Yuri Ponomarenko, 54, who returned several weeks ago, and “a mother and son who never left,” he said.
“I felt that I needed to come back, I just had to,” said Ponomarenko, who braved landmines to return home.
Debris and wrecked cars littered the looted village, and the silence was broken only by mewing cats.
- Putin ally injured -
Separately, the former head of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said Thursday he was injured by shelling in Donetsk, a Russian-controlled city in eastern Ukraine, and would need surgery.
Russia broadcast images of the heavily damaged hotel and restaurant, with parts of the roof destroyed and debris scattered around the rooms and outside in the garden.
Wounded: Former space agency chief and Putin supporter Dmitry Rogozin
Rogozin is an ardent supporter of President Vladimir Putin’s February offensive in Ukraine and is leading a team of military advisors to pro-Russian forces fighting alongside Moscow’s troops.
“Unfortunately, … some areas are still dangerous… but that does not mean that it should prevent officials from performing their duties,” Peskov said in response to the incident.
The deputy head of the presidency, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, announced earlier Thursday that one Ukrainian civilian was confirmed killed in Russian attacks the day before and 14 injured – including six wounded in Kherson region.