The U.S. and NATO are directly involved in the war in Ukraine even though war between nuclear superpowers should be unthinkable because of the damage it could bring to the world, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.
"We are watching with concern the rhetoric that the West is spouting, accusing us of allegedly preparing some kind of provocation using weapons of mass destruction," Lavrov said.
But he said the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and other nations are providing Ukraine's advanced weaponry - and the soldiers who are teaching Ukraine how to use that weaponry. The West, he said, is "directly participating in the war, which they are waging against Russia with the hands of Ukrainians," Lavrov said.
Lavrov blamed Russia's attacks on Ukraine energy generation plants, which have limited access to power for millions of Ukrainians as winter rolls in, on the West. He said Russia disables energy plants Ukraine needs to fight its war. The West, Lavrov said, "pumps Ukraine with deadly weapons to kill Russians, so don't say that the United States and NATO are not involved in this war."
A Pentagon officials who briefed reporters earlier this week said, however, the missile strikes serve no legitimate military purpose (see below).
►Lavrov said Moscow remains ready to negotiate: "We never asked for talks but always said that we are ready to listen to those who are interested in a negotiated settlement."
►Asked if a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Joe Biden is possible, Lavrov responded that "we don't shun contacts" but added that "we haven't yet heard any serious ideas yet."
►Russia postponed a round of nuclear arms control talks with the United States scheduled for this week because "it's impossible to discuss strategic stability nowadays while ignoring everything that is happening in Ukraine," Lavrov said
►Air raid warning sirens blanketed Ukraine on Thursday except for Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukraine's ICTV said. Russia has been battering numerous Ukraine cities almost daily since the war began.
Pentagon officials: Russian attacks on civilians serve no military purpose
Russian forces increasingly have turned to "horrific" missile and drone attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine as Russian military efforts have faltered, senior Pentagon officials said this week. The Russian attacks serve no legitimate military purpose, increase the risk of a safety incident at Ukraine's nuclear plants and seem aimed at punishing Ukrainian civilians as winter deepens, according to the officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Providing Ukraine with weapons to defend against Russian airstrikes has become the Pentagon's top priority, one senior official said. The Pentagon last week began shipping $400 million in weapons, including air defense missiles. Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to fire thousands of artillery shells each day, a number that fluctuates as each side mounts attacks and counteroffensives, that official said.
Iran and North Korea continue to provide Russia with drones and artillery shells, the officials said.
- Tom Vanden Brook
Suspicious package detonated at US Embassy in Madrid
Police in Spain detonated a suspicious envelope discovered at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spanish officials said Thursday. A similar package sent to the Ukrainian Embassy ignited when opened Wednesday, injuring an employee. Police reported that multiple explosive letters were sent in Spain over the past two days, although Spanish authorities have made no firm connection to the war in Ukraine.
The Russian Embassy in Madrid condemned the letter bombs, tweeting that "any threat or terrorist attack, especially those directed at diplomatic missions, are totally condemnable."
Ukraine city gets power, heat after a week in the cold
The power is back on in the central Ukraine city of Ladyzhyn, almost a week after a Russian rocket strike severely damaged a thermal power plant. The attack left 18,000 people in the dark and cold as temperatures in the city have hovered around freezing. Vinnytsia region's emergency services agency had declared a military emergency, and local authorities have deployed generators, charging stations, potbelly stoves and blankets.
Work is underway to diversify the heating system, said Serhiy Borzov, head of the Vinnytsia Regional Military Administration.
"Neither the winter frost, nor the darkness, nor any other manifestations of terror will help the aggressor conquer the Ukrainians," Borzov said.
World Cup fabulously popular but hard to see in Ukraine
Soccer is Ukraine's most popular sport; archrival clubs Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv are known across Europe. And the Ukrainian national soccer team's heroic but ill-fated effort to reach the World Cup finals now underway in Qatar has not diminished interest in the extravaganza. But with rolling power outages and struggling Internet, watching the global past time's greatest show can be difficult.
"I have to live with it. I know who made this (happen)," said Hlib Kuian,a 21-year-old university economics student. "I know that the Russian Federation wants that I live like this."
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine live updates: Russia says US, NATO 'participating' in war