European Council Chief Charles Michel used much of his face-to-face meeting Thursday in Beijing with Xi Jinping to urge the Chinese President to use his sway over Russian President Vladimir Putin “to end the war and to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.”
Michel’s visit was the first official trip to Beijing by a top EU leader since the pandemic. The three-hour sit down (considered quite long for Xi) also included discussion of human rights, Taiwan, trade relations and climate change.
But according to Belgian daily L’Echo, the main focus was on the war in Ukraine. “President Xi made very clear that China is not providing weapons to Russia,” Michel said, noting also that the Chinese leader was concerned about the threat of nuclear weapons being used.
“I sincerely hope that all the international community, China included, will use all possible tools and instruments to advocate in order to convince the Kremlin and Russia to end the war and to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine,” Michel said.
The Guardian noted that a readout of Thursday’s meeting provided by EU officials included the phrase: “Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war against Ukraine.” Chinese authorities had rejected similar language in a video Michel taped last month for a different encounter.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had made a similar plea in a meeting with Xi last month, as Western leaders believe the Chinese leader may be the only figure who could convince Putin to reconsider his strategy in Ukraine.
At Least Five Letter Bombs In Madrid May Be Linked To War In Ukraine
Third suspicious package detected at Torrejon de Ardoz airbase
Spain has stepped up security at public and diplomatic buildings after a number of letter bombs were received, including one confirmed Thursday that had been sent last week to the office of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. The Interior Ministry said that an "envelope with pyrotechnic material" addressed to Sanchez had been received on Nov. 24 and disarmed by his security team. A fifth device was received at Spain's Defence Ministry on Thursday morning and defused by specialist police officers.
These incidents followed reports of an explosive letter arrived on Wednesday at the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid, which caused one minor injury when it exploded.
On the same day, Spanish police detonated a similar bomb letter received at Instalaza, the Zaragoza arms company located in Madrid’s Historic District, which manufactures grenade launchers and other military devices sent by Spain to Ukraine .
According to a source close to the investigation, the devices sent to the prime minister's office, the Ukrainian embassy, the air base and the arms manufacturer were in similar brown envelopes and addressed to the heads of each institution. They contained loose gunpowder with an electrical ignition mechanism that would make the powder burn, rather than explode, the source told Reuters.
Spanish daily Heraldo reports that the security employee in charge of handling Instalaza’s mail grew suspicious as the envelope only bore a handwritten email address from Ukraine, with a Ukrainian postmark.
After the discovery of the first package, Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, urged all of the country’s embassies to strengthen their security measures. The minister added that whoever was responsible “will not succeed in intimidating Ukrainian diplomats or stopping their daily work on strengthening Ukraine and countering Russian aggression.”
It is not clear who is behind the attacks, or the choice of targets. Spain is considered a strong NATO partner, and until now both Ukraine’s allies and Russia have sought to limit the risk that the war widens into other countries. An incident two weeks ago where two people were killed just across the Ukrainian border in Poland raised initial fears that a NATO country had been attacked by Russia, though it turned out that an errant Ukrainian air-defense weapon was believed responsible.
“Carta Bomba” Threat On Spanish Daily Front Page
Spanish daily Heraldo features Thursday a report on the interception of the letter bomb (carta bomba) at Madrid’s weapons manufacturer Instalaza, which produces grenade launchers and other military devices sent by Spain to Ukraine.
U.S. Prisoner Paul Whelan Moved To Hospital, Unable To Call Home
U.S. citizen Paul Whelan detained in Russia
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in a remote penal colony in Russia, has reportedly been moved to a prison hospital and has been unable to contact his family for a week, according to his brother.
Last month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow would consider a prisoner exchange with Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman serving a prison term in the U.S. for arms trafficking.
Russia’s Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova had previously criticized the U.S. embassy in Moscow for being “engaged in some kind of media madness […] We have stated many times that we are ready to negotiate a solution to the fate of convicted U.S. citizens in Russia and Russians in the U.S. If the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has a minute to spare, they will tell President Biden, who in turn will tell the relatives of Whelan and Griner.”
U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is the other high-profile prisoner in Russia, where she’s been convicted of having hashish oil in her luggage to a Moscow airport. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in prison. After her appeal was rejected in October, Griner was moved to a penal colony.
Kherson In The Dark, EU To Provide Generators
On Thursday morning heavy Russian shelling left much of the recently liberated city of Kherson in southern Ukraine without power, Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson region military administration wrote on Telegram.
According to Yanushevych, the local energy company Khersonoblenergo has already begun work on fixing the problem.
The EU has said it will provide 40 power generators to Ukraine in order to counter Russian attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure. “Russia attempts to break the morale of Ukraine by targeting energy infrastructure and using winter as a weapon of war against civilians,” top EU foreign policy official Josep Borrell said.
“Life Goes On” In Kyiv … “By Flashlight”
U.S. daily The New York Times features on-the-ground reporting from the Ukrainian capital, as Ukraine’s energy grid keeps being targeted by Russian strikes, causing nationwide outages and forcing residents in the “weary city” of Kyiv to improvise.
UK Targets 22 Russians In New Wave Of Sanctions
Britain has imposed sanctions on another 22 Russian individuals who have been directly involved in the mobilization of troops for Russia's war in Ukraine.
The list includes Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, "who is responsible for overseeing the Russian weapons industry and responsible for equipping mobilized troops," and Arkady Gostev, director of the Federal Penitentiary Service, who was sanctioned for supporting the recruitment of prisoners into the Wagner Group of mercenaries.
"The Russian regime’s decision to partially mobilize Russian citizens was a desperate attempt to overwhelm the valiant Ukrainians defending their territory. It has failed," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said. "Today we have sanctioned individuals who have enforced this conscription, sending thousands of Russian citizens to fight in Putin’s illegal and abhorrent war."
Russia Chides Germany For “Demonization” Attempts Over Holodomor Genocide
In response to the resolution of the German Bundestag to recognize the mass Holodomor famine in Ukraine (1932-1933) as the genocide of the Ukrainian people, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was yet another attempt to justify the campaign of demonization against Russia.
"The Germans are trying to rewrite their history and forget the horrors they committed during the Second World War […] They seem to like the ideological followers of Ukrainian war criminals, who annually march with torches under the banner of the SS division ‘Galicia,’” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.