NATO rejects Ukraine no-fly zone, disgruntled Zelenskiy says it means more bombing

  • A no-fly zone would drag us into war, says NATO
  • Ukrainian president says NATO has given green light to bombings
  • EU considers more sanctions against Russia, including at IMF
  • NATO warns that the worst is yet to come in Russia’s war on Ukraine

BRUSSELS, March 4 (Reuters) – NATO on Friday rejected Ukraine’s pleas to help protect its skies from Russian missiles and fighter jets, fearing it could be drawn into Moscow’s war against its neighbor , but Europe has promised new sanctions to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy strongly criticized the move, saying the alliance had given Russia the green light to continue its bombing campaign.

He had earlier called on NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Russia invaded by land, sea and air on February 24.

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“We are not part of this conflict,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, rejecting Ukraine’s request.

“We have a responsibility, as NATO allies, to prevent this war from spreading beyond Ukraine, because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and cause even more human suffering” , he said after a NATO meeting in Brussels.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, wants to join the European Union and NATO, moves Moscow says threaten its security and influence. Russia bombed residential areas and civilian infrastructure, as well as captured two nuclear sites. Read more

“Today there was a NATO summit, a weak summit, a confused summit, a summit where it was clear that not everyone sees the battle for the freedom of Europe as the goal. number one,” Zelenskiy said in a televised address Friday night.

“Today the alliance leadership gave the green light to further bombardments of Ukrainian towns and villages, after refusing to implement a no-fly zone.”

While the West has condemned Putin, members of NATO’s 30 members are bound to defend each other if attacked and fear they could descend into war with nuclear-armed Russia. The EU threatened further sanctions, but it was unclear what it could do.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the alliance would defend “every square inch” of NATO territory and that Moscow should not doubt Washington’s resolve.

“Ours is a defensive alliance. We are not looking for any conflict. But if a conflict arises, we are ready,” he said.

“We will continue to raise costs for President Putin. Unless the Kremlin changes course, it will continue down the path of increasing isolation and economic pain.”

National flags of NATO members are seen, on the day of a meeting of foreign ministers in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 4 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

But the alliance – in which the United States, Britain and France are also nuclear powers – dashed hopes of immediate help from Ukraine. According to Kiev, this could turn the situation around in the war.

“We should not have NATO aircraft operating over Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops operating in Ukrainian territory,” Stoltenberg said.


So far, support for Ukraine has taken the form of the heaviest international economic sanctions against Russia to date, as well as arms supplies from NATO states.

On Friday, the West promised Ukraine more humanitarian aid, essential supplies and military support unless it went to war.

In a day of intense diplomacy – if no obvious immediate results – the G7 countries said they would hold those responsible for war crimes accountable and refuse to recognize any Russian territorial gains.

EU countries have said more sanctions are coming, after the bloc has already cut off several Russian lenders from the SWIFT banking system, curtailed trade with Moscow and targeted some of the wealth held by Russian oligarchs in the West .

The EU was considering restricting Russia’s access to the International Monetary Fund, officials said. Read more

“This is Putin’s war, and only Putin can end it,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “If anyone expects sanctions to be able to stop the war tomorrow, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Ukraine has called on the West to freeze all Russian banks. But it was unclear when and what additional sanctions the EU might agree to, given its dependence on Russian energy supplies, which think tank Eurointelligence says amounts to $700 million a day.

Stoltenberg said the worst was yet to come as Russia deployed more heavy weapons.

“The days ahead will likely be worse, with more death, more suffering and more destruction,” he said.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Bart Meijer, Francesco Guarascio, Philip Blenkinsop, John Irish, Simon Lewis, Marine Strauss, John Chalmers and David Ljunggren, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Angus MacSwan and Jonathan Oatis

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