Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine Slams ‘Greenlight for Bombs’ as NATO Rejects No-Fly Zone

Written by | Monday, March 7th, 2022

Any move to create a no-fly zone above Ukraine would be viewed as “participation” in the conflict while Western sanctions imposed on Russia are tantamount to a declaration of war, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday (5 March). The Russian leader’s latest rhetorical escalation of tensions came shortly after an effort to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol was suspended when Russian forces were accused of violating a temporary cease-fire with an ongoing barrage of shelling. The apparent collapse of the first agreement to create humanitarian corridors in Ukraine underscored the perilous existence of civilians facing a Russian assault that has brought death and destruction to its democratic neighbor. It came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lashed out at NATO for refusing to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that “all the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you.”
A day earlier (4 March), foreign ministers from the EU-27, plus the UK, US and Canada, met in Brussels in a show of transatlantic unity after a week in which they imposed crippling sanctions that are effectively designed to crash the Russian economy. The ministers were joined by their Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba via video link from Kyiv, a city now almost completely encircled by Russian invading forces. NATO’s rejection of Ukraine’s appeal for a no-fly zone was slammed by President Zelenskyy who accused the alliance of effectively greenlighting Russia’s bombing campaign of his country. Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, 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”.
Meanwhile, 51% of Swedes, up from 42% in January, are now in favor of joining NATO, a poll showed on Friday (4 March), with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurring a rapid shift in attitudes in a country long known for neutrality. The landmark shift in opinion echoes that in close ally and NATO non-member Finland, where the head of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs described Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a wake-up call and “Europe’s 9/11 for Finns.” Sweden and Finland already have very close cooperation with the alliance and have been invited to recent summits. NATO chief Stoltenberg said in January the two countries could join the alliance “very quickly” if they decided to apply for membership. Sweden has not been in a war since 1814 and has built its foreign policy on “non-participation in military alliances.” However, Sweden’s Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said joining NATO was not an easy decision, nor one that could be rushed based on recent events alone.
With Russian aggression against Ukraine well into its second week, EU leaders will get together in Versailles, the French royal palace, on 10-11 March to discuss the next sanctions on Russia, and the possible accession of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to the bloc. Following Ukraine’s plea to join the EU as it battles Russia’s invasion, Georgia and Moldova on Thursday (3 March) submitted their own applications to join the bloc. With the war threatening to devastate Ukraine, the EU is also expected to redouble efforts on a key home front — by coming forward with a raft of proposals next week aimed at further diversifying energy supplies. Ukraine is a vital transshipment country for natural gas flowing from Russia to Europe, and even as Europeans continue to deplore the Russian actions in Ukraine, they continue to be highly dependent on Russia for its fuel, with 40% of the EU’s natural gas and around 27% of its crude oil imported from the country. Oil and gas prices have hit new highs this week, with crude oil prices surpassing $110 per barrel for the first time since 2014. The energy price was already historically high in Europe, and the war Russia is waging in Ukraine has only worsened the situation.

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