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

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 that wants to join the European Union and the western military alliance NATO, is not currently a member of either. Support 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.

“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.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Western powers to impose a no-fly zone since the start of the invasion of Moscow nine days ago, as Russia bombed cities and brought fighting to Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Read more

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In a video message earlier on Friday, Ukrainian 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 we also believe that if we do that (no-fly zone) we will end up with something that could lead to all-out war in Europe” involving many countries, he said.

NATO members send weapons to Ukraine, but they stop short of military action. Russia and NATO members, the United States, Britain and France, are all nuclear powers.

The only way for NATO to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO planes to shoot down Russian planes, Stoltenberg said, adding that the risk of escalation would be very high.

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

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 more coordinated restrictions that have already targeted the Russian financial system and elites.

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Six officials told Reuters that European Union officials are studying restrictions on Russia’s influence and access to financing at the International Monetary Fund after its invasion of Ukraine. Read more

The bloc’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said all options remained on the table regarding the new sanctions.

However, it was not immediately clear when the 27-nation European Union would be able to agree on specific measures given member states’ divisions over dealing with Moscow and some countries’ heavy dependence on Russian energy supplies.

“We will look at everything,” Borrell told reporters when asked about the possible suspension of EU gas imports from Russia, which think tank Eurointelligence said amount to $700 million a day even during the war.

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. .

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.

Russia’s invasion forces seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Friday in fierce fighting in southeast Ukraine, raising global alarm, but a massive fire at a training building was put out and officials said the facility is now safe.

“It’s not just about Ukraine and Russia,” Coveney said. “It is about all of us who live in continental Europe, who are likely to be affected by an accident or breach of that facility.”

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

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