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Sweden and Finland are firm on staying out of NATO; Erdogan denounces the invasion of Russia as a “hard blow” for peace; NATO activates “defense plans” for its allies

Brussels: NATO is activating its “defense plans” for allied countries as Russia attacks non-NATO Ukraine, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference on Thursday.

Stoltenberg also confirmed that NATO will hold a video summit on Friday to discuss the Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbor. And he reiterated that NATO had no “plan” to send alliance troops to Ukraine.

This is the first time the alliance has publicly said it is activating its defense plans, which were drawn up after Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Stoltenberg gave no specifics about them, beyond saying they are “defensive plans” allowing for deployments that “cover all of the east of our alliance” and that “give our military commanders a little more authority within politically defined guidelines”.

He said it would include elements of NATO’s 40,000-soldier rapid reaction force, including a highly prepared 7,000-strong mostly French unit and an air wing under French command. Stoltenberg said Friday’s summit would also include non-NATO members Sweden and Finland, as well as EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

The NATO chief said the invasion would have “long-term effects” on the Western alliance’s relationship with Russia and on NATO’s security posture. “We don’t have all the answers today. But it will be a new reality. It will be a new Europe after the invasion we saw today,” he said. Russia, he said, had not taken “serious” efforts to find a political solution to the tensions that preceded its military attack on Ukraine.

“Russia has therefore closed the door to a political solution. We regret it. But this is unfortunately the reality, which has serious and very serious consequences for the Ukrainian people, but which also has an impact on the security of all of us. this is why we are strengthening our presence in the eastern part of the alliance.”

Meanwhile, Sweden and Finland plan to stay out of NATO despite the “shock” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the leaders of the two countries said on Thursday. With the military offensive ordered last night by Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have entered a new and dark chapter in European history”, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference. She denounced “a manifest violation of international law and against the European security order”.

Earlier, in neighboring Finland, the government also ruled out an immediate move towards NATO membership. “We have a security policy designed to withstand times of crisis. We will use the means at our disposal, including cooperation with NATO partners,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a conference Press.

“After a crisis, we will see what additional measures are needed,” the minister said. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto noted that “despite early warnings, this morning came as a shock to all of us.” Unlike Sweden, Finland has adopted a so-called “NATO option” provision, which means that “if Finland’s security so requires, Finland has the possibility to apply for membership”, said Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

Full membership is an ongoing debate that has already been revived in recent weeks in Finland, and Russia’s action would likely spark a wider debate, Marin noted. “However, this is a debate that would require broad parliamentary consensus,” Marin said.

Norway, a member of NATO, condemned a “serious violation of international law” and announced the “temporary” transfer of its embassy from Kiev to Lviv, in western Ukraine. “The attack is a serious violation of international law and puts the lives of innocent people at risk,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store tweeted.

Denmark, also a NATO member, summoned the Russian ambassador to condemn the invasion. “Today is a stain in Russian history. Denmark strongly condemns Russia’s ruthless and completely unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “serious blow” to regional peace. “We reject Russia’s military operation,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, calling it “a blow to regional peace and stability.”

In a related development, the UN refugee chief warned on Thursday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have “devastating” humanitarian consequences and urged neighboring countries to keep borders open to those fleeing the country. violence.

“We are gravely concerned by the rapidly deteriorating situation and the ongoing military action in Ukraine,” Felippo Grandi said in a statement. “The humanitarian consequences on civilian populations will be devastating. There are no winners in war, but countless lives will be torn apart.”

Beijing meanwhile told the Russian foreign minister it understood Moscow’s “reasonable security concerns” regarding Ukraine, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement, after President Vladimir Putin ordered an attack on the country.

Putin on Thursday announced the launch of a major military offensive with ground troops entering the country from several directions and explosions heard in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.