Putin's defense minister claims US wants to prolong the war in Ukraine

Putin’s defense minister claims US and West want to prolong the war and make Ukraine ‘fight until the last man standing’ by sending billions in weapons as Russia begins its ‘methodical’ operation in Donbas

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has been seen rarely in public
  • But on Tuesday he surfaced to accuse the West of prolonging fighting in Ukraine 
  • He said the US wanted Ukraine to ‘fight to the last Ukrainian standing 
  • He spoke as Russia launched its long awaiting Donbas assault
  • Last week Biden announced another $800 million of security aid 

The United States and its Western partners are intent on prolonging the fighting in Ukraine by funneling billions of dollars in weapons to the country, Russia’s defense minister claimed on Tuesday.

Sergei Shoigu said the West was doing everything it could to extend Moscow’s military operation by supplying arms.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced a new $800 billion package, which included for the first time howitzer artillery units, as well as more drones and other weapons.

And this week, U.S. officials said they were expanding their plans for training Ukrainian personnel.

‘The United States and Western countries it controls are doing everything to drag out the special military operation as much as possible,’ Shoigu said, using Moscow’s euphemism for its invasion of Ukraine.

‘The increasing volume of foreign arms supplies clearly demonstrates their intentions to provoke the Kyiv regime to fight to the last Ukrainian standing.’   

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that he West was doing everything it could to extend Moscow’s military operation by supplying arms.

A man walks near a residential building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 17, 2022

Smoke rises from from the Azovstal steel plant during airstrikes on the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine. Russia has called on Ukrainian forces to end their resistance

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

But stiff resistance saw them driven back from a planned assault on the capital Kyiv in the north.

Since then Moscow has pulled back its forces for resupply, before sending them into the east for a ground offensive in two provinces known as the Donbas.  

The coal- and steel-producing Donbas has been the focal point of Russia’s campaign to destabilize Ukraine since 2014, when the Kremlin used proxies to set up separatist ‘people’s republics’ in Luhansk and Donetsk.

On Monday, a U.S. defense official said Russia had dispatched 11 battalion tactical groups – each of about 900 fighting men – back into Ukraine.

‘The plan to liberate the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics is being methodically carried out,’ Shoigu was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying at a meeting of defense officials.

Shoigu, who is close to President Vladimir Putin, has been only rarely seen in public since Russia launched what it calls its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. 

The Kremlin said last month that this was because he was preoccupied with his duties and had no time for media activity.

Russia unleashed a barrage of artillery fire on eastern Ukraine overnight as its offensive in the east got underway, with troops seizing the village of Kreminna. But Ukraine has also launched counter-attacks east of Kharkiv and near Izyum to cut Russian supply lines

Ukrainian servicemen sit atop an armoured fighting vehicle, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, at an unknown location in Eastern Ukraine on Tuesday

Burned vehicles are seen at the destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant in Mariupol on Monday

Moscow said its operation is designed to demilitarize Ukraine and remove what it calls dangerous nationalists.

Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for an unprovoked attack that has forced millions to flee abroad, killed or wounded thousands and left Russia increasingly isolated on the world stage.

‘The actions of our forces and the quality of the weaponry being used demonstrate once again that the priority set by our military and political leadership of building up the Russian armed forces is correct,’ Shoigu said.

Five planeloads of gear from the U.S. have already arrived in Europe from the latest tranche of supplies. It brings the U.S. contribution to more than $2.5 billion since the invasion began.

Other nations have played their part.

Britain is to send armored anti-aircraft vehicles equipped with missiles that destroy jets and helicopters, according to reports.

The Stormer vehicles look similar to tanks but instead of firing shells they carry 17 high-velocity Starstreak missiles.

Other former Soviet-block nations have sent air defense systems. 

On Monday, the Pentagon said it would begin training Ukrainians in the use of U.S. howitzer artillery within days.   

‘I’m going to refrain right now from talking about who’s going to be doing the training and exactly on what timeline,’ spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a briefing.

‘I think as we get closer to things, we may be able to talk a little bit more about it. 

‘But there is a plan now that we are beginning to execute and we think that that training can happen in the next several days.’ 

He said the plan was to train personnel who would then be able to take their knowledge home to then train soldiers in Ukraine.

And he said the training would not take long. 

‘They understand how to use artillery, and … we don’t believe will take very long or require much detailed training to get them up to speed on American howitzers,’ he said. 

Details emerged as Russia launched its long-awaited all-out assault on east Ukraine on Tuesday, seizing its first town after unleashing thousands of troops in what Ukraine has described as the Battle of the Donbas, a campaign to take two provinces.

The U.S. is sending 18 howitzers to Ukraine in its latest aid package. British troops are seen here using  55mm self-propelled howitzers in Saudi Arabia in 1991

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the U.S. will begin training Ukrainian troops in how to use howitzer artillery in the coming days

Ukrainian officials insisted their troops would withstand the new assault, which they said began overnight with massive Russian artillery and rocket barrages and attempts to advance across almost the entire stretch of the eastern front.

In the first big reported success of Russia’s new assault, Ukraine said the Russians had seized Kreminna, a frontline town of 18,000 people in Luhansk, one of the two Donbas provinces.

Russian forces were attacking ‘on all sides’, authorities were trying to evacuate civilians and it was impossible to tally the civilian dead, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Moscow gave few details about its new campaign, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that ‘another stage of this operation is beginning’.

The supply of weapons to Ukraine has long been a source of anger in Moscow.

The U.S. has trained Ukrainian troops in how to use the Switchblade drone, which crashes into targets with its explosive payload. Some versions can target tanks

This week, the Czech Republic became the first NATO member to supply tanks to Ukraine and now Britain is considering following suit. Pictured is a Mastiff 2 armoured vehicle

Russia accused the Biden administration of ‘adding fuel’ to the conflict in Ukraine and warned there could be ‘unpredictable consequences’ if it continued to supply the most sensitive weapons to the war-torn nation, according to details of a diplomatic message published on Friday. 

A two-page diplomatic note or démarche, dated Tuesday, was sent to the State Department by the Russian Embassy in Washington.

It was titled, ‘On Russia’s concerns in the context of massive supplies of weapons and military equipment to the Kyiv regime,’ according to the Washington Post which obtained a copy of the note in Russian. 

It accused the U.S. and N.A.T.O. allies of trying to force Ukraine to ‘abandon’ negotiations with Russia ‘in order to continue the bloodshed,’ while pressuring other countries to end military and technical cooperation with Moscow.

‘We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,’ the note said. 

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