China’s foreign minister on Tuesday equated any possible future military support from Beijing for Russia's war in Ukraine with US weapons sales to the self-ruled island of Taiwan.
“Why does the US ask China not to provide weapons to Russia while it keeps selling arms to Taiwan?” Foreign Minister Qin Gang asked during a news conference.
Qin said it was “absurd” for “senior US officials” to be interjecting in the issue of Taiwan, which he said is a “matter for the Chinese people.”
“No other country has the right to interfere in it,” he said.
China’s ruling Communist Party sees democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having controlled it, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly refused to rule out the use of force in “reunifying” it with the Chinese mainland.
Qin reiterated Beijing's long held stance on Tuesday, refusing to rule out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
“We will continue to work with the greatest sincerity and utmost efforts to pursue peaceful reunification," he said. "Meanwhile, we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures.”
In terms of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Qin said Tuesday that “China did not create the crisis, it is not a party to the crisis and has not provided weapons to either side.”
“China always makes its own judgment and decides on this position independently based on the merit of the issue," Qin said." Between war and peace, we have chosen peace; between sanctions and dialogue, we have chosen dialogue; between fanning the flames and lowering the temperature, we have chosen the latter."
Some context: Beijing's efforts to present itself as peacemaker in the Ukraine war have been severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict — it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” — and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.
Good relations between Beijing and Moscow are essential in this unstable world, China's foreign minister said Tuesday.
“The more unstable the world becomes, the more imperative it is for China and Russia to steadily advance their relations,” Qin Gang said.
The minister was speaking during a news conference outlining China’s foreign policy on the sidelines of the country's 14thNational People’s Congress.
“China and Russia is based on no alliance and no confrontation and is not targeted at any third party. It is not a threat to any country," he added.
Later in the news conference, Qin said "the process of peace talks should begin as soon as possible" to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, and that "sanctions and pressure will not solve the problem."
"The Ukraine crisis has come to a critical juncture,” he said. “Either hostilities stop and peace is restored and the process of political settlement begins, or more fuel is added to the flames and the crisis further expands and spirals out of control."
Some context: US officials have warned in recent weeks that intelligence suggests China is considering sending lethal aid to Russia, which Beijing has denied.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week cautioned that arming Moscow’s forces would causeChinaserious problems around the world.
“China can’t have it both ways when it comes to … the Russian aggression in Ukraine. It can’t be putting forward peace proposals on the one hand, while actually feeding the flames of the fire that Russia has started with the other hand,” Blinken said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday he ordered the reinforcement of positions inside the city of Bakhmut, explaining there was no part of Ukraine that could be abandoned.
The president said he took the decision after consulting with the military.
“I told the chief of staff to find the appropriate forces to help the guys in Bakhmut. There is no such part of Ukraine that can be abandoned,” Zelensky said. “There is no Ukrainian trench in which the resilience and heroism of our soldiers would not be valuable.”
Zelensky also seemed to address rumors of a Ukrainian withdrawal from the eastern city, referring to those as “disinformation messages,” coming from those who didn’t have access to the confidential decision-making briefings where such a decision would have to be taken.
Zelensky said Ukraine would defend every inch of its country.
“We are defending and will continue to defend every part of Ukraine,” he said.“When the time comes, we will liberate every city and village in our country. And we will make the occupier answer for every shot against Ukraine, for every vile act against Ukrainians.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky promised Ukraine would find those responsible for killing an unarmed Ukrainian soldier.
His comments Monday were in response to a video showing an unarmed soldier in Ukrainian combat fatigues being shot by assailants who do not appear in the footage.
“Today, a video has been released showing how the occupiers brutally killed a warrior who bravely said to their faces: "Glory to Ukraine!,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. “I want us all to respond to his words in unity: "Glory to the hero! Glory to heroes! Glory to Ukraine!”
Zelensky said Ukraine would never forget those who had died for their country and thanked those currently on the battlefield.
“We will find the murderers,” he said.
Some background: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba blamed Russia and said it was additional proof that Moscow’s invasion was “genocidal.” The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets, among several others, said he has shared the video with international partners as "evidence of yet another Russian war crime."
CNN has not been able to independently verify the identity of the executed POW, where he was shot, and who shot him. CNN has reached out to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to get further details.
CNN has also reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense but has yet to hear back. Russia has consistently denied accusations that it or its soldiers have committed war crimes during what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Ukrainian officials have lashed out against Moscow after a video showed one of the country’s soldiers, allegedly in Russian captivity, being executed seemingly by Russian soldiers.
The video shows an unarmed soldier in Ukrainian combat fatigues smoking a cigarette near what appears to be a fighting position. The man is then shown pulling the cigarette from his mouth, blowing out the smoke and can be heard saying “Slava Ukraini” (Glory to Ukraine), before fighters off camera fire several shots at him.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba blamed Russia and said it was additional “proof” that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “genocidal.”
“It is imperative that [Prosecutor] Karim Khan QC launches an immediate [International Criminal Court] investigation into this heinous war crime,” he tweeted on Monday. “Perpetrators must face justice.”
The Ukrainian President’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak also said the incident was a “war crime.”
“Those [war crimes] are an element of a [methodical] policy of terror, which is whitewashed by Kremlin propaganda with its myths about "Nazis,” There will be punishment for every such war crime,” Yermak tweeted Monday. “No one will dodge justice. We'll find them all.”
The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets said he shared the video with international partners as "evidence of yet another Russian war crime."
“The execution of a captured Ukrainian soldier is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. It is a manifestation of rascality and ignobility,” Lubinets wrote on Telegram.
CNN has not been able to independently verify who the executed POW is, where he was shot, or who shot him.
NATO intelligence estimates that for every Ukrainian soldier killed defending Bakhmut, Russian forces have lost at least five, a military official with the North Atlantic alliance told CNN on Monday.
The official cautioned the five to one ratio was an informed estimate based on intelligence.
The official spoke to CNN on the condition they remain anonymous because they are not allowed to discuss this intelligence. Despite the favorable ratio, they also said Ukraine was suffering significant losses defending the city.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly claimed they were inflicting heavy losses on Russia as Moscow tried to take Bakhmut.
“Our defenders inflicted significant losses on the enemy, destroyed a large number of vehicles, forced Wagner's best assault units to fight and reduced the enemy's offensive potential,”Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s land forces, said after a visit to Bakhmut on Sunday.
The Institute for the Study of War also said Russia’s efforts to capture Bakhmut had significantly deteriorated its capacity for additional offensives.
“The Russian military will likely struggle to maintain any subsequent offensive operations for some months, giving Ukraine a chance to seize the initiative;” it said on Monday.
The Ukrainian military said Monday it had used a drone to destroy a surveillance tower in southern Russia, near the two countries' shared border.
In a Telegram post, the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence’s Kraken Unit said its reconnaissance forces "destroyed an autonomous Grenader surveillance tower in Bryansk region."
The rare acknowledgment by Ukrainian forces comes after Russian security officials claimed last Thursday that a small Ukrainian armed group hadcrossed the Russian borderinto Bryansk. The allegations were dismissed by Kyiv as a “classic deliberate provocation” by the Kremlin.
At the time, CNN could not independently verify the Russian claims, and local media had not carried any images of the supposed incidents, any type of confrontation or an alleged raid reported by Russian authorities.
The Kremlin's allegations of an attack in Bryansk came two days after Russia’s Defense Ministry accusedUkraineof launching a spate of attempted drone strikes targeting infrastructure deep inside Russia, including near Moscow.
CNN was unable to independently confirm those claims and Ukraine did not immediately comment on the incident.
CNN's Anna Chernova, Olga Voitovych, Nathan Hodge and Rob Picheta contributed to this post.