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US, NATO weapons transport in Ukraine ‘legitimate’ targets, Russia warns

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov

Russia says it views the transport of weapons by the United States and NATO in Ukraine as ‘legitimate’ military targets, warning of harsh response in case of any attempts by the West to threaten Russia’s military.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview with TASS on Wednesday, said Moscow would view US and NATO vehicles transporting weapons on Ukrainian territory as legitimate military targets.

“We are warning that US-NATO weapons transports across Ukrainian territory will be considered by us as legal military targets,” he noted, warning that any attempts by the West to significantly damage Russia’s military or its separatist allies in Ukraine would be “harshly suppressed.”

Russia President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize Donetsk and Luhansk, largely populated by ethnic Russians, in eastern Ukraine. The US and its European allies have labeled the military operation as “Putin’s land grab,” imposing waves of unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

In 2014, the two regions - collectively known as the Donbass – declared themselves new republics; a move that triggered a persisting and bloody conflict between Kiev and armed pro-Russian separatists.

“We are making the Americans and other Westerners understand that attempts to slow down our special operation, to inflict maximum damage on Russian contingents and formations of the DPR and LPR (Donetsk and Luhansk People's republics) will be harshly suppressed,” Ryabkov warned.

Kremlin slams Biden’s ‘genocide’ remarks as ‘unacceptable’

Separately on Wednesday, the Kremlin denounced as “unacceptable” claims by US President Joe Biden in accusing Russian troops of committing “genocide” in Ukraine.

“We categorically disagree and consider unacceptable any attempt to distort the situation in this way, especially since it is hardly acceptable for the president of the United States,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Biden has accused Putin of trying to “wipe out the idea” of a Ukrainian identity, insisting that purported evidence of genocidal acts by Russian troops was rising.

The Kremlin spokesman in response further said that Biden was only attempting to “distort the situation” in Ukraine.

“This is hardly acceptable from a president of the United States, a country that has committed well-known crimes in recent times,” Peskov said at the conference call.

Ukraine’s Zelensky swapping pro-Russian politician for prisoners of war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky early on Wednesday proposed swapping senior pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk for Ukraine’s male and female prisoners of war being kept by Russian forces.

The Ukrainian leader said that “it is important for our security forces and military forces to consider such a possibility.”

His comments came just a day after Ukraine’s security services on Tuesday said that they had arrested Medvedchuk, who is said to be Putin’s closest and most influential ally in Ukraine.

Medvedchuk, a trained Ukrainian lawyer, chaired a pro-Russian political party and is alleged to have been Putin’s pick to replace Zelensky as a puppet leader.

The Kremlin, however, denied the swap offer with Peskov saying that Medvedchuk is “not a citizen of Russia” and has nothing to do with Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“He is a foreign political figure. We don't know at all whether he himself wants some kind of participation on the part of Russia in resolving this libelous situation against him,” Peskov said.

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