NATO backs military aid to ‘heroic’ Ukraine, Russia ramps up attacks

  • NATO calls Russia most ‘significant and immediate threat’
  • Ukraine praises ‘difficult but essential decisions’ by NATO
  • Putin: Russia will respond to NATO moves in Finland, Sweden
  • Russian missile strikes in Ukraine are on the rise

MADRID/KYIV, June 29 (Reuters) – NATO on Wednesday labeled Russia as the biggest “immediate threat” to Western security after the invasion of Ukraine and agreed on plans to modernize Kiev’s beleaguered military forces. their country”.

At a summit dominated by the invasion and the geopolitical upheaval it has caused, NATO also invited Sweden and Finland to join, promising a sevenfold increase in combat troops along the eastern flank from 2023 against any future Russian attack. .

In response, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would respond in kind if NATO set up infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after joining the US-led military alliance. read more

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Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out the possibility of tensions developing in Moscow’s relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their accession to NATO.

US President Joe Biden announced increased deployment of land, naval and air forces across Europe, from Spain in the west to Romania and Poland, bordering Ukraine.

These include a permanent army headquarters and associated battalion in Poland – the first full-time US deployment on NATO’s eastern edge. read more

“President Putin’s war on Ukraine has disrupted peace in Europe and led to the biggest security crisis in Europe since World War II,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference.

“NATO has responded with strength and unity,” he said.

‘FIGHT EVERYWHERE’

While NATO’s 30 national leaders met in Madrid, Russian forces intensified attacks in Ukraine, including rocket attacks and shelling of the southern Mykolaiv region, close to the front lines and the Black Sea.

The mayor of the city of Mykolaiv said a Russian missile had killed at least five people in a residential building there, while Moscow said its troops hit a so-called training base for foreign mercenaries in the region.

The governor of the eastern province of Luhansk reported that there was “fighting everywhere” in a battle around the hill town of Lysychansk, which Russian troops are trying to encircle as they gradually advance in a campaign to attack the entire industrialized eastern Donbas region of Ukraine on behalf of separatist accomplices. to conquer. Donbas includes the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian television on Wednesday that Russian attacks killed a civilian and injured eight.

Also in Donetsk, a video clip aired on the Russian state news agency RIA showed imprisoned former US soldier Alexander Drueke, who said he had not fired a single shot while fighting for the Ukrainian side, in a plea for leniency from the separatist authorities will determine fate. read more

“My combat experience here was that one mission in that one day,” said Drueke of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, referring to the day he was captured outside Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. ‘I didn’t fire a shot. I hope that plays a role in the sentence I may or may not receive.’

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy once again told NATO that Ukrainian forces needed more weapons and money, and faster, to erode Russia’s vast lead in artillery and missile firepower, and said Moscow’s ambitions did not stop with Ukraine.

Avril Haines, the top US intelligence official, said Wednesday that the most likely near-term scenario is a harrowing conflict in which Moscow makes only incremental gains, but no breakthrough in its goal to take most of Ukraine.

The Russian invasion that began on February 24 has devastated cities, killed thousands and displaced millions. Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of an unprovoked, imperialist land grab.

‘FULL SOLIDARITY’

In a nod to the abrupt deterioration in relations with Russia since the invasion, a NATO communique named Russia the “most significant and immediate threat to the security of the Allies”, having previously classified it as a “strategic partner”.

NATO has issued a new Strategic Concept document, the first since 2010, stating that a “highly independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area”.

To that end, NATO has agreed on a long-term financial and military aid package to modernize Ukraine’s largely Soviet military.

“We are in full solidarity with the government and the people of Ukraine in the heroic defense of their country,” the statement said.

Stoltenberg said NATO had agreed to put 300,000 troops on high alert from 2023, up from 40,000 now, under a new force model to protect an area stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. read more

Zelenskiy said in a video link with the summit that Ukraine needed $5 billion a month for its defense and protection.

“This is not a war that Russia is waging against Ukraine alone. This is a war for the right to dictate the terms in Europe — for what the future world order will look like,” he said.

NATO’s invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance marks one of the most momentous shifts in European security in decades as Helsinki and Stockholm drop a tradition of neutrality in response to the Russian invasion. read more

Russia’s ramped-up missile strikes in Ukraine and its forces made slow but relentless progress.

In Mykolaiv, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said eight Russian missiles had hit the city, including an apartment building. Photos show smoke billowing from a four-story building, the top floor of which has been partially destroyed.

Russia’s defense ministry said its troops launched attacks on a military training base for “foreign mercenaries” near Mykolaiv and also hit ammunition storage. Reuters was unable to independently verify the messages.

Mykolaiv, a river port and shipbuilding center near the Black Sea, was a bastion against Russian attempts to move west to Ukraine’s main port, Odessa.

Oleksander Vilkul, governor of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, said Russian shelling had increased there too.

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Reporting by Reuters agencies; written by Angus MacSwan, Mark Heinrich and Deepa Babington; adaptation by Frank Jack Daniel, Gareth Jones and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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