US warns China of ‘consequences’ if it helps Russia in Ukraine

Washington and Beijing discuss war that UN says has displaced nearly 10 million

The United States has warned China of "consequences" if it provides material support to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as Beijing said it wanted the war to end but did not criticise the Kremlin's brutal campaign.

US president Joe Biden spoke to Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as deadly Russian shelling intensified in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and right across the country where United Nations agencies say conditions are deteriorating sharply and nearly a quarter of the pre-war population has been displaced.

Officials in the southeastern port of Mariupol said fighting was moving towards the centre of the besieged and ruined city, where many hundreds of people were still believed to be trapped in the rubble of a theatre bombed on Wednesday. Russian missiles also struck buildings near Lviv airport, 1,200km to the west.

The White House said Mr Biden "described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians" and "underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis".

According to Chinese state media, Mr Xi said “the top priorities now are to continue dialogue and negotiations, avoid civilian casualties, prevent a humanitarian crisis, cease fighting and end the war as soon as possible”.

Talks

He also urged the international community to support talks between Russia and Ukraine and resolve their security concerns – partly echoing the Kremlin's claim it had no choice but to invade its neighbour to prevent it eventually joining Nato.

China's foreign ministry quoted Mr Xi as saying the "Ukraine crisis is not something we want to see" and calling for Beijing and Washington to "shoulder our share of international responsibilities and work for world peace".

“Sweeping and indiscriminate sanctions would only make the people suffer. If further escalated, they could trigger serious crises in the global economy,” he warned.

As western states pile pressure on Russia to end its war on Ukraine, the US and its allies fear China might help Russia bypass sweeping sanctions or may even provide it with military equipment as its invasion appears to falter.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Mr Biden raised those concerns with Mr Xi: "Actions are a key part of this, and we will be watching," she added.

At least one person was killed when a shell struck a residential district in Kyiv; two died when civilian buildings were hit in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine; and one person was hurt when cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea demolished an aircraft-repair facility near Lviv airport.

The strike, which came just days after 35 people were killed and 134 hurt in a Russian missile strike on a military base outside Lviv, increased fears that the city may no longer be a “safe haven” for millions of Ukrainians fleeing war.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov added fuel to those concerns by warning Moscow's military may attack western arms deliveries vital to Ukraine.

“We clearly said that any cargo moving into Ukrainian territory, which we would believe is carrying weapons, would be fair game,” he said.

‘No safe cities’

Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Friday morning: "There are no safe and dangerous cities. Now we are all under attack."

About 3.2 million people are thought to have left the country since Russia’s dawn invasion on February 24th, and the International Organisation for Migration said nearly 6.5 million people were now displaced within Ukraine, which had a pre-war population of about 41 million.

Most refugees crossed Ukraine's border into Poland, with many continuing onwards to the west. Hundreds are arriving in Ireland every day, and it is understood talks are under way to house some in the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet , Co Cork, while the National Show Centre in Dublin may provide shelter if a facility near the airport fills up.

Ukraine says its key demands for the first stage of a peace deal are a full ceasefire, withdrawal of all Russian forces and binding security guarantees from world powers.

Russia says it wants to demilitarise and “denazify” its pro-western, democratic neighbour.

"We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans," Russian president Vladimir Putin told a rally on Friday to mark eight years since the Kremlin annexed Crimea from Ukraine.