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NATO foreign ministers agreed on Friday that no allied aircraft should fly over Ukrainian airspace and no allied troops should enter Ukraine, following Kyiv’s request that they help impose a no-fly zone over the country.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of an extraordinary meeting that the possibility of a no-fly zone was mentioned, but that the allies agreed that they should not have NATO aircraft operating in Ukrainian airspace. The same would apply to troops on Ukrainian territory.
“We don’t want to be part of the conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told a press conference.
The former Norwegian prime minister said he understood the “desperation” of Ukrainians, but recalled that the only way for the Alliance to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be to enter its airspace, which could mean war in Europe.
Stoltenberg pointed out that, if NATO were to get directly involved, there would be more suffering and more civilians killed, which is why the allies have chosen to impose sanctions on Moscow.
The meeting was attended, via recorded message, by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, to whom the allies expressed their solidarity and deep respect for the courage of the Ukrainian people and their armed forces.
“What is happening in Ukraine is horrible, on a scale not seen since World War II,” asserted Stoltenberg, who called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop that war immediately, withdraw all his forces from Ukraine unconditionally and engage in real diplomacy.
He said it is the worst military aggression in Europe for decades, with cities under siege, hospitals and residential buildings bombed, and many civilians killed or wounded. He further anticipated that the days ahead are likely to be worse.
Stoltenberg explained that NATO has decided to strengthen the coordination and information sharing with Finland and Sweden, countries that attended the meeting today as guests.
In addition, allied ministers today discussed the need to support other partners who may be at risk, including Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Stoltenberg stated that these countries are very different from each other but have in common, as does Moldova, that Russia is exercising its power to intimidate them.
He recalled that Russia has already invaded Georgia, where its troops control parts of the territory, and that they are also present in Transnistria, in Moldova, while in Bosnia-Herzegovina they see a very fragile and unstable situation, with inflammatory rhetoric and serious dangers for the unity of that state.