The World Health Organization has warned Western nations that they must begin immediately stockpiling medicines and other essential supplies before an ‘imminent’ nuclear war breaks out with Russia.
Russia is now engaged in ‘a war against Nato and the West’, the European Union’s defence chief admitted this week as Canada became the 12th country to commit tanks to Ukraine.
Stefano Sannino, the secretary general of the EU’s external action service, warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin had moved beyond his initial ‘special military operation’ and was ‘moving the war into a different stage’.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Mr Sannino was speaking as Canada became the latest country to pledge tanks and Poland said it would give an additional 60 to the 14 it has already committed to the war effort.
Spain and Norway are expected to announce how many Leopard 2s they will send to Ukraine in the coming days.
Belgium announced a new package of military aid, promising cash, missiles, machineguns and armoured vehicles, but had to admit it has no main battle tanks to match the offers from its Nato allies.
Ukraine is also seeking Western fourth-generation fighter jets such as the US F-16, although this remains an unlikely prospect.
Mr Sannino said Ukraine’s allies had been forced to increase and upgrade their military support to Kyiv in response to Moscow shifting the focus of the war to the West.
Addressing reporters in Tokyo, he said: ‘I think that this latest development in terms of armed supply is just an evolution of the situation and of the way Russia has started moving the war into a different stage.’
He added that Russia was making ‘indiscriminate attacks’ on civilians and cities. The country was desperate to gain momentum on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine before the Western tank squadrons arrive.
In the past 48 hours, Moscow’s forces have been attempting to break through Ukraine’s frontlines in the Donbas region. From Thursday night into yesterday morning Russia also subjected Ukrainian cities to more bomb attacks.
Some 47 of the 59 missiles were intercepted but 11 people are understood to have been killed in explosions caused by the Russian ordnance which penetrated Ukraine’s air defence systems. Russia also launched 37 air strikes.
In response to the provision of Western tanks to Ukraine, Russia accused US President Joe Biden of ‘pumping weapons’ into the country when he could be instigating a ceasefire.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said the promised delivery of Western tanks to Ukraine was evidence of the growing ‘direct involvement’ of the United States and Europe in the war. Western allies have committed around 150 tanks. Peskov said: ‘There are constant statements from European capitals and Washington DC that the sending of various weapons systems to Ukraine, including tanks, in no way signifies the involvement of these countries or the [Nato] alliance in hostilities in Ukraine.
‘We categorically disagree with this, and in Moscow everything [they’re doing] is seen as a direct involvement. We see that this is growing.’ North Korea also condemned the decision by the US to supply Ukraine with tanks, saying Washington was escalating a sinister ‘proxy war’ aimed at destroying Moscow.
Meanwhile, Hungary, which is a Nato member and EU state, suggested Western countries have ‘drifted’ into becoming active participants in the conflict.
Prime minister Viktor Orban, who has been widely condemned for alleged attempts to reduce democratic freedoms in Hungary, said the West should pursue ‘a ceasefire and peace talks’ rather than arming Ukraine.
He added: ‘It started with the Germans saying they were willing to send helmets but they would not send lethal aid, since that represented participation in the conflict.
‘Now we’re at battle tanks and there are discussions about planes.’ Hungary has refused to send weapons to Ukraine and has boosted the Kremlin’s coffers by purchasing Russian gas, oil and nuclear fuel.
Asked if Hungary would get more involved, Mr Orban said: ‘This is out of the question as long as I am prime minister.
‘But the others [other European countries] have already been swept away. If you send weapons no matter what you say, you are in the war.’
It comes as Ukraine is to set up drone assault companies within its armed forces in a joint venture with billionaire Elon Musk’s satellite communications company.
Kyiv announced yesterday it had signed off on a deal with Starlink satellite communications, which is operated by Mr Musk’s SpaceX organisation.
Ukraine wants to develop a futuristic army of drones to conduct attacks behind Russian lines. In a statement on its Facebook page yesterday, Starlink said ‘the most professional [Ukrainian] servicemen’ have been chosen to lead the assault companies which will be equipped with uncrewed aerial vehicles and explosives.
Starlink added: ‘We are doing everything to provide soldiers with modern technologies.’
Unmanned aircraft have already played a crucial role on both sides since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Moscow has used hundreds of Iranian-made ‘suicide drones’ to attack Ukrainian cities, while Kyiv’s forces have used drones to drop small explosives on Russian forces and to monitor their movements.