EU official: Russia shifts war focus to 'NATO and the West'
TOKYO (AP) — A senior EU official said Friday that Russia has taken its war against Ukraine to a “a different stage” by making indiscriminate attacks on civilians and non-military targets, while criticizing Moscow for triggering recent moves by Germany and the United States to send advanced tanks to Ukraine.
Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European Union’s European External Action Service, defended German and U.S. provisions of the military equipment to Ukraine, and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for waging a war on NATO and the West.
Sannino, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo as part of an Asia-Pacific tour, said Putin had “moved from a concept of special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West.”
He said German and U.S. tank provisions are meant to help Ukrainians defend themselves in the war, rather than making them attackers.
“I think that this latest development in terms of armed supply is just an evolution of the situation and of the way Russia started moving the war into a different stage,” Sannino said. He added that Russia is making “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and cities and no longer military targets.
The EU is not moving the war into a different stage but is “just giving the possibility of saving lives and allowing the Ukrainians to defend (themselves) from these barbaric attacks,” Sannino said.
Germany and the U.S. announced Wednesday they will send advanced battle tanks to Ukraine, offering what one expert called an “armored punching force” to help Kyiv break combat stalemates as the Russian invasion enters its 12th month.
The announcement marked the first stage of a coordinated effort by the West to provide dozens of the heavy weapons, which Ukrainian military commanders said would enable counter-offensives, reduce casualties and help restore dwindling ammunition supplies.
U.S. President Joe Biden said his country will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks, reversing months of persistent arguments by Washington that they were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.
The U.S. decision followed Germany’s agreement to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks.
Sannino was in Japan this week to discuss further strengthening cooperation between the EU and Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations as they face growing challenges that also affect the region.
Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press