NATO members yesterday rejected a request by Ukraine not to fly, saying they were increasing support for Kiev, but direct intervention could lead to a wider and more brutal European war.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, wants to join the European Union and NATO.
“We are not part of this conflict and our responsibility is to see that it does not escalate beyond Ukraine,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the imposition of a no-fly zone for Western powers, which have been bombing Russian cities and fighting near Europe’s largest nuclear plant since the start of the Russian offensive in his country about nine days ago.
The foreign ministers of the 30 NATO member states, most of whom are members of the European Union, met with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at the Coalition’s headquarters in Brussels. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its ninth day, he meets with ministers. With more than a million people already displaced, concerns about civilian casualties are mounting, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“We understand the frustrations, but we hope that if we do so (the ban will be lifted) we will face a situation that will lead to a full-scale war in Europe, involving many more countries and more. Suffering,” Stoltenberg said.
He said the only way for the coalition to impose an air ban was to send its planes to shoot down Russian planes: the risk of further escalation would be very high.
“The allies agree that there should be no NATO aircraft in Ukrainian airspace or NATO forces on Ukrainian soil,” he said.
Zhelensky said yesterday that if the Allies did not comply with his request to protect Ukrainian airspace, they would instead provide Kiev with more fighter jets.
NATO members have sent arms to Ukraine, but they have refrained from any military action that could lead to a direct confrontation with Russia.
Stoltenberg also warned that “the days ahead will be worse with more deaths, suffering and destruction as Russian armed forces continue to carry out their offensive across the country.”
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister spoke to NATO via video link from Kiev. He later tweeted: “My message: Act now before it is too late … Do not allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn Ukraine into Syria. We are ready to fight, we will continue to fight, but we need partners. Help us to take firm, decisive and quick action immediately.” “
NATO members sent thousands of troops to Eastern Europe in a bid to strengthen the eastern part of the alliance closest to Russia, while Ukraine sent weapons to defend itself.
“We will continue to do everything we can to protect and defend every inch of NATO territory,” Stoltenberg said.
So far, European countries have said they will not supply aircraft to Ukraine, and most distributions focus on light weapons, anti-tank missiles and portable anti-aircraft missiles.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean-Azelborn warned against NATO’s involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it would lead to a global catastrophe.
“I think we need to be realistic now,” he said.
Ahead of the meeting, Czech Foreign Minister John Lebevsky also warned that efforts to impose a no-fly zone would make NATO a partner in the conflict.
Finnish Foreign Minister Becca Havisto said the risks to civilians in Ukrainian cities were “extremely worrying”.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabriel Landsbergis has called on the United Nations to prevent hostilities at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. He said the Security Council should establish security zones.
He added that it was necessary to establish humanitarian avenues for civilians to leave the conflict.
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