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Biden: Putin “Totally Miscalculated” Ukraine Invasion

U.S. President Joe Biden has said that President Vladimir Putin had completely misjudged Russia's capacity to invade Ukraine, but said he did not believe Moscow would use a tactical nuclear weapon against its neighbor despite recent thinly veiled threats to employ his atomic arsenal.

Biden made the statements as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pleaded for a rapid increase in Western air defense systems for Ukraine to defend against missile strikes on its cities following two days of deadly Russian bombardments that targeted the country's civilians and energy infrastructure.

On October 12, the attacks continued, with at least seven people being killed and eight wounded in a Russian strike on a crowded market in the town of Avdiyivka, the governor of the eastern Donetsk region said.

"The Russians struck the central market where many people were at that time," Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a statement, adding that there was "no military logic" for such an attack.

In reaction to Russia's wave of air strikes that killed at least 19 people and hit power stations in Ukraine, defense ministers from NATO and partner countries opened a two-day meeting in Brussels on October 12 to discuss ways to provide Kyiv with more air defenses.

Biden told CNN in an interview that while he believes Putin is acting rationally, his objectives in Ukraine "were not rational."

"If you listen to the speech he made after when that decision was being made [to invade Ukraine], he talked about the whole idea of -- he was needed to be the leader of Russia that united all of Russian speakers," Biden said in the October 11 interview. "I just think it's irrational."

In recent weeks, Russia moved to seize four partially occupied regions of Ukraine after referendums widely denounced as illegal, mobilized hundreds of thousands of Russians, and repeatedly alluded to the use of nuclear arms, stoking alarm in the West.

Russia launched its fresh wave of missile strikes on several regions of Ukraine a day after bombing multiple cities, including Kyiv, as a reprisal for a blast on October 8 that damaged the only bridge between Moscow-annexed Crimea and mainland Russia.

Biden last week warned that the world risks "Armageddon" in unusually direct remarks following Putin's threats to use atomic weapons amid a faltering military campaign in Ukraine.

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Putin's intentions and his mental state have been the subject of much debate after the Russian military suffered a series of setbacks in Ukraine.

But Biden said that Putin was "rational" despite the mistakes he has made.

"I think [Putin] is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly," Biden said.

In reaction, the Kremlin said on October 12 that rhetoric from Western leaders on the potential use of nuclear weapons was harmful and provocative.

"We express our daily regret that Western heads of state engage in nuclear rhetoric every day," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that such a practice was "provocative."

Peskov also denied that more men were being drafted into the army, despite some regional officials reporting they were stepping up mobilization efforts this week.

"There is no new wave," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, telling reporters to check with individual governors to see what they meant.

Speaking ahead of the NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said on October 12 that providing Ukraine with more air defenses is the "top priority" of the meeting that will also be attended by representatives from other countries.

"We will address how to ramp up support for Ukraine and the top priority will be more air defense for Ukraine," Stoltenberg said at the start of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

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On October 11, Zelenskiy addressed a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations, urging the leaders of the world's industrial powers to block Russia's energy sector with further sanctions to disrupt Russian revenues from oil and gas.

Speaking to the summit via video link on October 11, Zelenskiy asked the leaders for more air defense capabilities to neutralize aerial attacks, saying that, when Ukraine receives such systems, "the key element of Russia’s terror, rocket strikes, will cease to work."

He also said a "tough price cap" is needed for the exports of oil and gas from Russia, which he said had started a new stage of escalation with attacks on October 10 and 11.

"Russia must be completely isolated and punished. Punished both politically and in terms of sanctions," he said.

"Such steps can bring peace closer -- they will encourage the terrorist state to think about peace, about the unprofitability of war," Zelenskiy told the leaders of the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, Japan, France, and Italy.

The G7 leaders in a statement condemned Russia's recent missile attacks and said they would hold [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and those responsible to account but did not say how.

The White House later pledged to speed up shipments of air defenses to Ukraine, while Germany promised delivery to Ukraine "in the coming days" of the first of four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems capable of protecting a city.

Zelenskiy thanked all the countries that have already helped Ukraine secure its air defense systems, particularly the United States and Germany, but said according to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia has ordered 2,400 drones from Iran.

In addition, Zelenskiy asked the G7 countries to back his initiative for an international observer mission on Ukraine's border with Belarus to monitor the security situation.

By RFE/RL 

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