NATO works to prevent Ukraine conflict spillover, chief claims
NATO must ensure the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine dose not spill beyond the country’s borders, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a joint press conference with Latvia’s President, Egils Levits, in Riga on Tuesday.
“The suffering we now see in Ukraine is horrific. It affects us all,” Stoltenberg stated. “And we have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine.”
The bloc has gathered “thousands of additional troops” on its eastern flank amid “Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine” Stoltenberg said.
The alliance is ready to defend “every inch” of Latvia, as well as “every inch of all allied territory” he stressed, providing details on the bloc’s military buildup.
“We have 130 jets at high alert. Over 200 ships from the High North to the Mediterranean,” Stoltenberg added.
The fighting has already sparked “Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War”, with some 2 million people having already fled Ukraine, Stoltenberg claimed. Moreover, the evacuation of civilians from the combat zones has been deliberately disrupted, Stoltenberg alleged, without explicitly pinning the blame on any of the warring parties.
“There are very credible reports of civilians coming under fire as they try to evacuate. Targeting civilians is a war crime. And it is totally unacceptable,” he warned.
While Russia and Ukraine have agreed to establish humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from besieged cities, the process has so far been unsuccessful. The Russian military has pointed fingers at the Ukrainian side, claiming that neo-Nazi militias have been deliberately shooting at the fleeing civilians to prevent them from leaving in order to continue using them as human shields.
The conflict broke out on February 24, when Moscow launched its large-scale offensive against Ukraine. The military operation was the only option left to protect the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine’s east, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said at the time, also outlining the goals to “demilitarize” and “denazify” the country. Kiev branded the attack “unprovoked”, insisting it has had no plans to re-take the republics, which split from the country after the 2014 Maidan coup.