U.S. pledges arms, shrugs off Russian nuclear warning

STORY: “Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was confident as he kicked off talks with allies at a German air base Tuesday (April 26), pledging new packages of ever heavier weapons in the fight against Russia.

And brushing off a threat from Moscow that their support for Kyiv could lead to nuclear war.

U.S. officials have shifted emphasis this week from speaking mainly about helping Ukraine defend itself, to bolder talk of a Ukrainian victory that would weaken Russia's ability to threaten its neighbors.

NATO allies have lately approved shipments of hundreds of millions of dollars in arms they held back from sending in earlier phases of the war, and want their allies to do the same.

In a notable shift, Germany, where the government had come under pressure after refusing Ukrainian pleas for heavy weapons, announced it would now send "Gepard" light tanks with anti-aircraft guns.

But all this has aggravated Moscow - which calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation" to demilitarize and denazify the country.

In marked escalation of Russian rhetoric, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked on state TV late on Monday about the prospect of World War Three.

"Really, the risks are really considerable and I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real, and we must not underestimate it."

However, Russia, Lavrov said, was doing a lot to uphold the principle of striving to prevent nuclear war at all costs.

Kyiv and its allies have played down the remarks.

One British minister called it "bravado."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby decried it as "escalatory rhetoric."

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Moscow Tuesday on a peace mission.

He told Lavrov that he was ready to fully mobilize the organization's resources to save lives and evacuate people from the besieged city of Mariupol.

"My proposal is for coordinated work of United Nations, International Committee of Red Cross and Ukraine and Russian Federation forces to enable the safe evacuation of those civilians who want to leave both inside the Azovstal plant and in the city in any direction they choose and to deliver humanitarian aid required."

Lavrov said Russia was committed to a diplomatic solution but dismissed Kyiv's proposal to hold peace talks in the city and said it was too early to talk about who would mediate any negotiations.

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