???? Live: France pledges ‘solidarity’ with Baltic states as Chinese ambassador questions their sovereignty
France and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania expressed dismay on Sunday after China’s ambassador in Paris questioned the sovereignty of former Soviet countries like Ukraine in an interview aired on French television. The controversy comes as Russia is claiming advances in western districts of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Follow our live blog to see how the day’s events unfold. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
3:54pm: Moscow slams US after Russian journalists denied visas for UN visit
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday said Moscow “will not forgive” Washington for denying US visas to Russian journalists meant to accompany him on a visit to UN headquarters.
“We won’t forget, we will not forgive this,” said Lavrov, who will chair several UN Security Council meetings in New York. He told reporters that the United States “had chickened out”.
1:51pm: Anger as Chinese envoy questions post-Soviet nations
France and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania expressed dismay after China’s ambassador in Paris questioned the sovereignty of former Soviet countries like Ukraine.
Asked about his position on whether Crimea is part of Ukraine or not, Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye said in an interview aired on French television on Friday that historically it was part of Russia and had been offered to Ukraine by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
“These ex-USSR countries don’t have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to materialize their sovereign status,” Shaye added.
France responded on Sunday by stating its “full solidarity” with all the allied countries affected, which it said had acquired their independence “after decades of oppression”.
“On Ukraine specifically, it was internationally recognized within borders including Crimea in 1991 by the entire international community, including China,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
1:33pm: Russia says it has gained more ground in battle for Bakhmut
Russia’s defence ministry on Sunday said its forces had captured more territory in Bakhmut as they pursue their bid to seize full control of the city.
The defence ministry said Russian troops secured two more blocks in Bakhmut’s western districts and that airborne units were providing reinforcements to the north and south.
Also on Sunday, the Russian-installed head of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region denied a report by a US think tank that Ukrainian forces had taken up positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river.
“There is no enemy foothold on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro river … our military completely controls that territory,” Vladimir Saldo wrote on his Telegram channel.
Kyiv has repeatedly denied claims that its forces are poised to withdraw from Bakhmut.
1:24pm: Ukrainians hold out for counteroffensive in Bakhmut
After months of fighting in the eastern town of Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces are now holding on in dire circumstances while Russia has claimed gains in the city using fighters from the paramilitary Wagner Group.
As a Ukrainian counteroffensive is expected to intensify fighting in coming weeks, volunteers are trying to convince remaining civilians still living in surrounding villages to evacuate.
“They’ve lived here their whole lives. They know every pot and pan. This is their property and they know leaving would mean losing it all,’ volunteer Oleksandra told FRANCE 24.
Key developments on Saturday, April 22
Russia’s foreign ministry said that Moscow was expelling more than 20 German diplomats in a “reciprocal” move, state media reported. German authorities said a flight carrying Russian diplomats had left Germany on Saturday following discussions between Berlin and Moscow over reducing Russia’s intelligence presence in Germany.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated then returned home in the Russian city of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, while an explosive was disposed of, the local governor said, two days after a Russian warplane accidentally dropped a bomb on the city.
>> Read our blog for all of yesterday’s events as they unfolded
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)
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