Ukraine’s show of strength as Biden offers his support

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s armed forces were capable of fighting off any attack from Russia as the country marked its national army day yesterday with a display of US armoured vehicles and patrol boats.

S President Joe Biden has pledged his “unwavering support” to Ukraine in its standoff with Moscow and will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin today to try to defuse the crisis.

Ukraine has accused Russia of positioning tens of thousands of troops near its border in preparation for a possible large-scale military offensive, raising the prospect of open war between the neighbours.

“The servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to fulfil their most important mission – to defend the freedom and sovereignty of the state from the Russian aggressor,” Mr Zelenskiy said in a statement.

“The Ukrainian army… is confident in its strength and able to thwart any conquest plans of the enemy.”

Russia has dismissed talk of a new assault on Ukraine as false and inflammatory but told the West not to cross its “red lines” and to halt the eastward expansion of the NATO alliance.

Mr Zelenskiy will travel east to Kharkiv, a traditional centre for Ukrainian weapons manufacturing, to mark a delivery of tanks, armoured personal carriers and armoured vehicles made in the city’s factories.

He will also visit the Donetsk region, where Ukraine’s army has fought Russian-backed forces in a simmering conflict that Kiev says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Several cities across Ukraine are marking the 30th anniversary of the creation of an independent military after winning independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Kiev, Lviv and the southern port city of Odessa will display US-made Humvees. In Odessa, there will also be a ceremony to hand over two recently delivered US Coast Guard patrol boats intended to bolster Ukraine’s navy.

Ukraine has urged NATO to accelerate its entry into the military alliance and said Moscow had no right to veto. NATO’s leadership has been supportive but said Ukraine must carry out defence reforms and tackle corruption first.

Britain wants Russia to step back and de-escalate tensions along its border with Ukraine, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday.

“You’ve seen the increasing deployment on the border and clearly we need to address that. We think that Russia needs to step back and de-escalate the tensions there,” the spokesman told reporters.

Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed a 12-point ceasefire deal in the capital of Belarus in September 2014. Its provisions included prisoner exchanges, deliveries of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, five months into a conflict that by that point had killed more than 2,600 people – a toll that has risen to more than 14,000 now, according to the Ukrainian government. The agreement quickly broke down, with violations by both sides.

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