President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused Western security services of having helped Kyiv stage “terror attacks” in Russia, after giving an icy welcome to the new US and EU ambassadors.
His Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky meanwhile made a rare foreign visit to Warsaw in a show of thanks for Poland’s support since the start of Russia’s offensive.
Putin spoke at a meeting of the Kremlin’s security council dedicated to ensuring law and order in four Ukrainian territories he claimed to have annexed last year.
“There are grounds to assert” that other countries and Western intelligence services were involved “in staging sabotage and terrorist attacks”, Putin said in televised remarks.
In what appeared to be a reference to the Ukrainian authorities, Putin said “neo-Nazis and their accomplices were acting” in Russia as well as the annexed territories including the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Putin’s remarks come days after an explosion at a cafe in Russia’s second city, Saint Petersburg, killed a high-profile military blogger and staunch supporter of Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, Vladlen Tatarsky.
Moscow said the attack had been orchestrated by Ukraine with help from supporters of jailed critic Alexei Navalny. Kyiv has blamed it on Russia’s domestic infighting.
But Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday the blogger’s death would be “one of the topics of discussion” at the UN Security Council, where Moscow has taken over the rotating presidency.
Hours earlier, Putin had received the new foreign ambassadors to Moscow at a ceremony in the Kremlin.
He told US ambassador Lynne Tracy that Washington was responsible for the “Ukrainian crisis”, adding that ties between Russia and the United States were in “deep crisis”.
Putin also told the new EU envoy to Moscow, Roland Galharague, that the bloc instigated “geopolitical confrontation” with Moscow.
– Ukraine aircraft crash –
Also on Wednesday, Russian state media cited the FSB security service as saying that it detained a pilot of a Ukrainian light aircraft that crashed in the southern Bryansk region that borders Ukraine.
“The aircraft, for unknown reasons, crashed near the settlement of Butovsk in Bryansk region. The pilot (a citizen of Ukraine), who tried to escape to Ukrainian territory, was detained by a border patrol,” the FSB was quoted as saying by state news agency RIA Novosti.
In Warsaw, Zelensky expressed Ukraine’s gratitude to Poland, one of its staunchest backers since Russia’s offensive, providing it with weapons and welcoming refugees.
“Today we are trying to get for Ukraine… additional guarantees, security guarantees, which will strengthen Ukraine’s military potential,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said after talks with Zelensky.
These guarantees are an “introduction to Ukraine’s full membership in NATO”, Duda added, saying Poland “firmly” supported Kyiv’s bid to join the alliance.
Putin has used Ukraine’s desire to join NATO to justify Russia’s military operation there, though Ukraine was a long way from joining when fighting started in February 2022.
Zelensky thanked Poland for supporting Kyiv’s efforts to enter both the European Union and NATO.
“I would like to convey to our partners, who are constantly looking for compromises on our way to NATO, that Ukraine will be uncompromising in this as well,” Zelensky said.
Poland, Ukraine’s western neighbour, became the first NATO member to pledge the MiG-29 fighter jets that Ukraine had been calling for.
Warsaw said on Monday it had transferred some of its already promised fighter jets to Ukraine, after fellow NATO member Slovakia announced it had shipped an initial batch of its own.
“I think that in the future we will be able to transfer our whole remaining fleet of MiG-29s to Ukraine, if there is still such a need,” Duda said of the 28 MiG-29 jets in Poland’s possession.
– Agriculture talks –
He would require NATO’s authorisation for such a move, he added.
Warsaw has also delivered Leopard 2A4 tanks, which Kyiv had long sought to help its efforts to dislodge Russian troops from its territory.
Since the beginning of the offensive, Poland has hosted an influx of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.
“I will never get tired of thanking the ordinary Polish people who have been helping the ordinary Ukrainian people since the beginning of the Russian invasion,” Zelensky told journalists in Warsaw.
Despite its support, Poland has recently seen a wave of protests by farmers over Ukrainian grain exports, which they say are driving down market prices.
On Wednesday, Poland’s agriculture minister announced he was stepping down following the protests and blamed the European Union for inaction in helping the farmers.
According to Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the imports of grain and other agricultural products from Ukraine will be discussed during the talks with Zelensky.