NATO rejects Ukraine’s flight ban, says ‘not part of this’ war

The national flags of NATO members are seen, on the day of the foreign ministers meeting amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 4, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Hermann

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  • NATO says no-fly zones are off the table
  • The European Union considers sanctions, including at the International Monetary Fund
  • NATO says no-fly zones will risk escalation and more suffering
  • Blinken says NATO is a defensive alliance
  • Ukraine says help before it’s too late

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO allies rejected Ukraine’s request for no-fly zones on Friday, saying they were stepping up support, but direct intervention would lead to a broader and more brutal European war, so far limited to Russia’s offensive on its soil. neighbor.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, wants to join the European Union and the Western military alliance NATO, whose members are committed to the founding treaty to defend each other against invasion.

“We are not part of this conflict,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

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“We as NATO allies have a responsibility to prevent this war from escalating outside Ukraine because that would be more dangerous, more destructive and would lead to more human suffering.”

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed or injured and more than a million refugees have fled Ukraine since February 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the biggest attack on a European country since World War II.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Western powers to impose a no-fly zone, as Russia bombs cities and brings fighting to Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Read more

Support for Ukraine so far has mainly come in the form of far-reaching sanctions on Russia, with European Union members saying on Friday that more financial sanctions are yet to come. NATO members sent weapons to Ukraine, but they stopped short of military action.

In a video message earlier on Friday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said NATO foreign ministers should not allow Putin to “turn Ukraine into Syria,” referring to the devastating Russian-backed campaign against rebel cities in that country.

“Act now before it’s too late,” he said in the message posted on Twitter.

Stoltenberg said NATO understood Ukraine’s desperation, calling Russia’s war in Ukraine “horrific” and warning that the worst was yet to come, with Russia firing more heavy weapons. But he said that a no-fly zone could only be imposed by sending NATO planes to shoot down the Russian planes, adding that the risk of escalation would be very high.

Russia and NATO members, the United States, Britain and France, are all nuclear powers.

“Allies agree that NATO aircraft should not be operating over Ukrainian airspace or NATO forces operating on Ukrainian territory,” Stoltenberg said.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the alliance would defend “every inch” of NATO territory from attack. “Our alliance is a defensive alliance. We do not seek conflict. But if conflict reaches us, we are ready,” Blinken said.

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Russia’s invasion forces seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Friday in fierce fighting in southeastern Ukraine, alarming the world. A fire in a training building was put out, and officials said the facility was now safe.

More EU sanctions

Instead of a military presence in Ukraine, European Union countries – most of which are also members of NATO – have said they are looking to more economic sanctions to add coordinated restrictions that have already targeted the Russian financial system and elites.

“We’ll look at everything,” said Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, when asked about a possible suspension of EU gas imports from Russia, which think-tank Eurointelligence said amounted to $700 million a day even during the war.

“This is Putin’s war, and Putin must stop this war,” Borrell said.

However, it was not immediately clear when the EU would agree to the measures given some countries’ heavy reliance on Russian energy supplies.

Six officials told Reuters that the 27-nation bloc is studying restrictions on Russia’s influence and access to financing at the International Monetary Fund in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. Read more

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said no new sanctions would be announced on Friday, but the fourth round could affect more Russian banks’ access to the international transfer system SWIFT, blocking Russian ships from European ports and cutting off imports such as steel, timber, aluminum or coal. .

German Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock said the bloc must fill in any loopholes that might allow Russia to circumvent the sanctions.

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Putin launched his “special military operation” to get rid of what he said was the fascist government of Ukraine and demilitarize the country. Zelensky says Moscow is trying to prevent liberal democracy from flourishing on Russia’s borders.

“The picture looks very bleak and very dark in terms of Russia’s intentions … and so I think there are great concerns, and there is no point in dressing it in sugar,” Coveney said.

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Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold, Bart Meijer, Francesco Guaracchio, Philip Blinkensop, John Irish, Simon Lewis, and Marien Strauss, and writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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