Kremlin denies claim Putin threatened Britain; Zelenskyy warns of 'very tough' battles: Ukraine updates
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin made a veiled threat to fire a missile at the United Kingdom is not true, the Kremlin said Monday.
Johnson, in a BBC interview released hours earlier, said the interaction came in a phone call about three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
“He threatened me at one point," Johnson said, adding that Putin said: "'I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile it would only take a minute,’ or something like that.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had only pointed out that if Ukraine joined NATO, the deployment of NATO or American missiles near Russian borders would mean any missile would be able to reach Moscow in several minutes.
Peskov said Johnson's account was untrue, "or, to be more precise, it was a lie." Johnson deliberately lied or didn't understand what Putin was saying, Peskov said.
►France and Australia announced plans to jointly produce and deliver thousands of 155-millimeter artillery shells to Ukraine.
►New U.S. ambassador to Moscow Lynne Tracy has met with a Russian deputy foreign minister, the U.S. Embassy announced. No details of the discussion were announced. Tracy arrived in Moscow last week.
►The Kremlin has acknowledged keeping in place the partial mobilization decree it enacted in the fall, lending credence to the belief among some war observers that Russia will call up a second wave of draftees.
►Ukraine denied Russian claims that its forces captured a village that could serve as a crucial step for circling Bakhmut. A heated battle for control of the eastern city of 70,000 people has raged for weeks.
►Russia will once again require basic military training in high school and college -- including teaching students how to use assault rifles and hand grenades -- the first time such instruction will be mandatory since 1993, the British Defense Ministry said.
Turkey seeks separate review of Nordic countries' NATO request; Finland objects
Turkey is pushing for the NATO-membership applications of Finland and Sweden to be taken up separately, a notion the Finns reject.
Admission to the alliance requires unanimous approval from its members, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated Sunday that Turkey might sign off on only Finland. The Turks have voiced objections to what they consider Sweden's failure to crack down on groups Ankara considers terrorists.
“In my opinion it t would be fair to differentiate between the problematic country and the less problematic country,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Monday of the idea of splitting up the requests.
The Nordic countries filed for membership at the same time, and his Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haaivisto, said they should join NATO together.
“We have actually underlined to all our future NATO partners, including Hungary and Turkey, that Finnish and Swedish security goes together,” Haaivisto said.
Ukrainian fighter pilot dies trying to avoid crashing into homes
Ukraine was mourning the death of decorated fighter pilot Maj. Murashko Danil Gennadyevich, who reportedly died Friday in a crash while flying his crippled plane away from a neighborhood after a clash with enemy aircraft.
"Seeing the settlement of Shabelkivka nearby, the pilot despite the low flight height tried to drive the plane away from residential buildings until the last second" rather than eject to safety, the Ukraine military said in a statement. The military also said Gennadyevich was credited with 141 sorties since the war began less than a year ago, destroying more than 70 armored vehicles and 30 fuel tankers.
He will be awarded the honor "Hero of Ukraine."
Zelenskyy urges quicker delivery of weaponry from West
Ukraine forces are facing "very tough" combat in the crucial Donetsk region and desperately need delivery of weapons promised by the West, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
Key cities such as Bakhmut are under constant attack as Russian forces relentlessly try to break through Ukraine's defense "despite numerous casualties," Zelenskyy said. Putin has claimed annexation of the province.
The U.S. and Germany agreed last week to supply Ukraine with modern tanks, and training has already begun. But those tanks remain weeks or months away from the battlefield. Zelenskyy urged the United States, Germany, Poland, Canada, Belgium, Norway, Italy and other countries to expedite deliveries of all weapons and ammunition.
"Russia hopes to drag out the war, to exhaust our forces," he said. "We have to make time our weapon. We must speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine."
Croatian leader says tank deals will only prolong war
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic criticized Western nations for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons, saying it will only prolong the war. He questioned why, nearly a year into the war, tanks are now being approved for Ukraine. And he said German tanks will take months to arrive, and U.S. tanks could take a year.
Dragging out the war is costly to Europe while "America pays the least," he said. He questioned whether a nation with nuclear weapons can be defeated with conventional weapons.
“What is the goal? Disintegration of Russia, change of the government? There is also talk of tearing Russia apart," he said. "This is mad.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine updates: Kremlin denies Putin threatened Britain