New Delhi: The North Atlantic Council, the political decision-making body of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), will strengthen land, sea and air forces on its eastern side after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military offensive on Ukraine, stating the US and its allies had crossed Russia’s “red line” by expanding the NATO alliance.
In a statement Thursday, NATO said it “will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defence of all Allies”.
“We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional maritime assets. We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies,” it stated.
“We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence across the Alliance. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory,” NATO further said.
“We urge Russia in the strongest terms to turn back from the path of violence and aggression it has chosen. Russia’s leaders must bear full responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Russia will pay a very heavy economic and political price,” it added.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military command claimed it had destroyed six Russian planes – the sixth in the Kramatorsk district — and repulsed an attack on the frontline town of Shchastya.
Reports said Ukraine destroyed four military tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv.
Earlier in the day, five Russian planes and a helicopter were shot down in Luhansk, the Ukraine military said.
Moments later, Russia said it had destroyed military infrastructure at Ukraine’s air bases.
Russia’s ground forces also marched into Ukraine from several directions, reports quoted Ukraine’s border guards as saying. They said Russian tanks crossed the frontier in northern regions as well as from Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday, “This is a war of aggression. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.”
Ukraine Wednesday declared a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days starting Thursday. The emergency will restrict movement, block rallies and political gatherings “in the interest of national security and public order”.
CNN reported on 21 February that the US had “credible information” that Russian forces were identifying Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps” if it occupied the country.
Ambassador Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the US Representative to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, wrote this in a letter to Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
CNN quoted the official as saying, “disturbing information recently obtained by the United States that indicates that human rights violations and abuses in the aftermath of a further invasion are being planned”.
“These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, unjust detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons,” read the letter, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
Early Thursday, in a nationally televised address, Putin announced the offensive at Ukraine and said action was necessary after the US and its allies crossed Russia’s “red line” by expanding the NATO alliance.
US President Joe Biden called Putin’s move “an unprovoked and unjustified attack” and said the “world will hold Russia accountable”.
Source: The Print