US President Joe Biden expressed skepticism on Thursday about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comment that he had no intention of using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Putin, in a speech earlier in the day, played down a nuclear standoff with the West, insisting that Russia had not threatened to use nuclear weapons and had only responded to nuclear “blackmail” from Western leaders. Follow our liveblog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
06:06am: West says no biological weapons in Ukraine, Russia disagrees
The US and its Western allies on Thursday dismissed Russia’s claims that banned biological weapons activities are taking place in Ukraine with US support, calling the allegation disinformation and fabrications.
Russia’s UN ambassador said Moscow will pursue a UN investigation of its allegations that both countries are violating the convention prohibiting the use of biological weapons.
The dispute came during the third UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine-related issues that Russia has called since Tuesday. This one focused on a 310-page document that Russia circulated to council members this week alleging there is “military biological” activity in Ukraine with support of the US Defense Department.
1:38am: Putin’s talk of possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine is ‘dangerous’, says Biden
“If he has no intention, why does he keep talking about it? Why is he talking about the ability to use a tactical nuclear weapon?” Biden said in an interview with NewsNation.
“He’s been very dangerous in how he’s approached this,” said Biden.
1:10am: Ukraine’s economy to shrink by almost 32%, says central bank
Assuming security risks decline and demand picks up, gross domestic product will grow by around 4% to 5% per year in 2023 and 2024, the bank said in a quarterly inflation report.
“This year’s economic downturn has been driven by lower domestic demand, disrupted logistics, and large losses of labor force and production potential caused by the war,” it said, predicting the unemployment rate would hit 30% this year.
12:22am: Zelensky, giving address in the dark, says ‘shelling will not break us’
Abandoning his usual indoor setting, Zelensky said in his daily video address that Kyiv had shot down 23 drones in the last two days. Russia has aimed dozens of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles at Ukraine’s electricity generating network in the last two weeks, causing major damage and triggering blackouts.
“Shelling will not break us – to hear the enemy’s anthem on our land is scarier than the enemy’s rockets in our sky. We are not afraid of the dark,” he said.
Kyiv and four regions may have to cut electricity supplies for longer than planned after Russian strikes, a senior official said earlier on Thursday.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)