March 5 – NATO has rejected Ukraine’s appeal to impose a no-fly zone, prompting fierce criticism from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. So, what is a no-fly zone and why has NATO said it won’t implement it?
Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, announced the decision following an urgent meeting of the 30-member alliance in Brussels.
He said helping Ukraine protect its skies from Russian missiles and warplanes would require NATO forces to shoot down Russian aircraft, a move that could result in a “full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries”.
“We are not part of this conflict,” he said.
“We have a responsibility as allies to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and would cause even more human suffering.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy strongly criticised the decision, saying the alliance had given Russia the green light to continue its bombing campaign.
He had earlier appealed to NATO to set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Russia invaded by land, sea and air on Feb. 24.
“We are not part of this conflict,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in denying Ukraine’s request.
“We have a responsibility as NATO allies to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and would cause even more human suffering,” he said following a NATO meeting in Brussels.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, wants to join the European Union and NATO, moves which Moscow says threaten its security and influence. Russia has shelled residential areas and civilian infrastructure, as well as capturing two nuclear sites.
“Today there was a NATO summit, a weak summit, a confused summit, a summit where it was clear that not everyone considers the battle for Europe’s freedom to be the number one goal,” Zelenskiy said a televised address late on Friday.
While the West condemned Putin, members of the 30-strong NATO are bound to defend each other in case of attack and wary of sinking into a war with nuclear-armed Russia. The EU threatened more sanctions but it was not clear what it could do.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the alliance would defend “every inch” of territory and that Moscow should not doubt Washington’s resolve.
“Ours is a defensive alliance. We seek no conflict. But if conflict comes to us, we are ready,” he said.
“We should not have planes operating over Ukrainian airspace or troops operating in Ukrainian territory,” Stoltenberg said.
Support for Ukraine so far has come in the form of the heaviest international economic sanctions against Russia to date, as well as arms supplies from NATO states.
EU countries said more punishment was coming, after the bloc already cut several Russian lenders from the SWIFT banking system, curbed trade with Moscow and targeted some of the wealth held by Russian oligarchs in the West.
“It’s Putin’s war, and only Putin can end it,” the top EU diplomat, Josep Borrell, said. “If someone expects that sanctions can stop the war tomorrow, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
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