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March 14, 2022

OWN CORRESPONDENT

3 min read

Western arms convoys to Ukraine are ‘legitimate targets,’ Russia warns

Western arms convoys to Ukraine are ‘legitimate targets,’ Russia warns

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Forces

Story highlights

  • Russia warned the West against sending arms to Ukraine
  • NATO struggles to decide how to give more help to Kyiv’s leadership without risking a world war

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AS the war between Ukraine and Russia drags on, it is clear that Ukraine has mounted a far better resistance to Russian forces than many expected.

To continue to do so, however, Ukraine will need more help from the West — and that brings with it a dangerous risk that the war could escalate to involve NATO.

Russia warned the West against sending further arms to Ukraine, saying such arms convoys could now be considered “legitimate targets” for the Russian armed forces.

Speaking to Russia’s Channel One broadcaster on Saturday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov issued a warning to the West that could lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.

“We warned the United States that pumping Ukraine with weapons from a number of countries orchestrated by them is not just a dangerous move, but an action that turns the corresponding convoys into legitimate targets,” the deputy minister said, according to comments reported by Russia’s state news agency TASS.

Ryabkov said there could be consequences to what he called the West’s “thoughtless transfer” to Kyiv of weapons such as portable anti-aircraft missile systems and anti-tank missile systems, both of which have been supplied to Ukraine by several NATO members including the U.S. and U.K. 

Close observers of Russia, and its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, expressed shock and dismay at Ryabkov’s comments.

“If Russia attacks Western arms shipments ... it takes the conflict to a new level, of NATO vs. Russia,” Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said on Saturday, adding that a “critical moment in this conflict [is] coming up.”

“Does the West really realise the threat to our very system of government, and our way of life, from Putin, and is it willing to act,” he asked.

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Despite Russia’s latest threats, the West is in a tricky position over Ukraine because its continued support for Ukraine in terms of arms, intelligence and financial aid, defense experts and strategists argue, could make or break Ukraine’s resistance and could even tilt the war’s outcome in Ukraine’s favor, something that seemed unimaginable when Russia invaded over two weeks ago.

“There can be a point where this balance [in the war] is shifted in favour of Ukraine,” Wojciech Lorenz, a senior analyst at the International Security Programme at The Polish Institute of International Affairs, told CNBC.

Additional support from NATO’s individual members in the form of arms shipments, intelligence and other forms of aid “really makes a difference and is why Russia is doing so badly,” he said.

There could even come a point, he added, where Ukraine is able to not only resist Russian forces but can launch counter-offensives against them “and reclaim lost territory.”

While Ukraine has won the affection of people and governments around the world for its brave stand against Russia’s invasion, Russia has been heavily sanctioned, making it geopolitically, economically and financially isolated and vulnerable.

With the World Bank’s chief economist predicting that Russia is edging toward a default on its foreign debt while at home, numerous foreign brands have pulled out of Russia or ceased operations there, and Russian consumers are feeling the pain of the central bank’s interest rate hike to 20 % to bolster the crumbling ruble. CNBC

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