Authorities in China and India have called for a de-escalation in Russia’s war in Ukraine, joining Western leaders in a chorus of condemnation of President Vladimir Putin’s “barbaric” strikes in Kyiv and several other cities.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said “we hope the situation will deescalate soon” in a daily briefing after the explosions which appeared to be an act of revenge following a blast on a bridge linking Crimea to Russia at the weekend.
India’s foreign ministry spokesperson said its government was “deeply concerned” at the situation in Ukraine and willing to support all attempts at de-escalation.
“We reiterate that escalation of hostilities is in no one’s interest. We urge immediate cessation of hostilities and the urgent return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue,” said foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi.
Speaking in Australia at a joint media briefing with Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong, Foreign Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the country would not reveal how it would vote at the United Nations General Assembly on a likely draft resolution condemning Russia’s proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine.
“As a matter of prudence and policy, we don’t predict our votes in advance,” Mr Jaishankar said.
The comments from Russia’s former allies mark a striking public rebuke of President Putin’s actions in Ukraine. On Monday, early-morning missile strikes pounded several cities, including the heart of the capital in what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said was Moscow’s attempt to wipe his country “off the face of the Earth”.
Britain’s Foreign Minister James Cleverly called Russia’s firing of missiles into civilian areas of Ukraine “unacceptable”.
“This is a demonstration of weakness by Putin, not strength,” he tweeted. Liz Truss’s spokesman has said Mr Zelensky will take part in a G7 call on Tuesday.
The European Commission condemned the missile strikes by Russia as “barbaric”, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday morning that he had spoken to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who reassured him of Berlin’s support for Kyiv. Mr Zelensky said they had also agreed on a need for an urgent G7 meeting to discuss Russia’s “terrorist acts”.
German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht announced the delivery of the first of four IRIS-T SLM air-defence systems to Kyiv within days, saying the renewed attacks “show how important it is to supply Ukraine with air-defence systems quickly”.
“Russia’s attacks with missiles and drones terrorise the civilian population in particular. That is why we are now providing support, especially with air-defence weapons.”
Mr Zelensky said he had an “urgent call” with France’s President Emmanuel Macron. “We discussed the strengthening of our air defence, the need for a tough European and international reaction, as well as increased pressure on the Russian Federation. France stands with Ukraine,” he said. France’s foreign minister, meanwhile, said targeting civilians was a war crime.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and “condemned Russia’s horrific and indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.
“Nato will continue supporting the brave Ukrainian people to fight back against the Kremlin’s aggression for as long as it takes,” Mr Stoltenberg tweeted.
Mr Zelensky said Ukraine “will work on consolidating international support, strengthening Ukraine’s defense capabilities, restoring the destroyed, as well as increasing Russia’s isolation” after speaking to Poland’s president about “coordinating steps”.
The Ukrainian government is seeking a “resolute response” from the United Nations to the latest acts by Russia, Mr Kuleba said.
After a telephone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, he wrote on Twitter: “We coordinated efforts on mobilising a resolute response within the UN General Assembly.”
He provided no further details, but also said Russian President Vladimir Putin had not been “provoked” into Monday’s strikes, saying blame should not be shifted to “the victim of aggression.”
Italy has also reiterated its “unwavering and steadfast support for Ukraine”.
The General Assembly is due to vote on the draft resolution on Tuesday or Wednesday, diplomats said.
Russia had vetoed a UN Security Council resolution introduced by the United States and Albania late last month condemning the proclaimed annexation, with China, Gabon, India and Brazil abstaining.
Mr Putin, who launched a land, air and sea invasion of neighboring Ukraine on 24 February, said the strikes on Monday were in retaliation for what he called Kyiv’s “terrorist” actions – a reference to Ukraine’s attempts to repel Moscow’s invasion forces and cripple their supply lines.
The actions he referred to include an attack last weekend on a key bridge, prized by the Kremlin, between Russia and the annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Mr Putin vowed a “tough” and “proportionate” response should Ukraine carry out further attacks that threaten Russia’s security.
“No one should have any doubts about it,” he said.
Additional reporting by agencies