NATO chief fears Ukraine war could become a wider conflict


KYIV, Ukraine — The head of NATO expressed concern that the war in Ukraine could spiral out of control and turn into a war between Russia and NATO, according to an interview published Friday.

“If things go badly, they can go horribly wrong,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech on Norway’s NRK television.

“It was a terrible war in Ukraine. This is also a war that could turn into a full-blown war spreading into a major war between NATO and Russia,” he said. “We’re doing it every day to avoid that.”

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, said in the interview that “there is no doubt that a full-blown war is possible,” adding that it is important to avoid a conflict that is “inter-related”. involving more countries in Europe and turning into a full-blown conflict”. – open war in Europe.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly accused NATO allies of actually becoming a party to the conflict by supplying Ukraine with weapons, training its troops and providing military intelligence to attack Russian forces.

In comments reflecting rising tensions between Russia and the West, President Vladimir Putin suggested Moscow might think about using what he described as the American concept of pre-emptive strike.

“Talking about a disarmament attack, perhaps one should think about applying ideas developed by our US partners, their ideas, to ensure their security,” he said.

Long before the Ukraine war, the Kremlin had expressed concern about U.S. efforts to develop a so-called Rapid Global Strike capability, which envisions striking strategic targets. enemy strategy with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within an hour.

Putin noted that such an attack could knock down command facilities.

“We’re just thinking about it, they haven’t been afraid to talk about it openly over the years,” he said, claiming that Moscow’s precision-guided cruise missiles are superior to similar weapons. America and Russia have hypersonic weapons that the US does not have. implementation.

Putin also said he was disappointed with recent comments by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine negotiated by France and Germany had bought time for Ukraine to prepare for war. year 2022.

“I assumed the other participants in this process were sincere with us, but it turned out that they were deceiving us,” he said. “It turned out that they wanted to pump arms into Ukraine and prepare for war.”

Putin said Merkel’s statement showed that Russia was right to launch what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine. “Maybe we should start earlier,” he said.

He also said her comments further eroded Russia’s trust in the West, complicating any possible peace talks.

“Ultimately we will have to negotiate a deal,” he said. “But after such statements, there is a problem of trust. Trust is almost zero. I’ve said many times that we’re ready for a deal, but it makes us think, think about who we’re dealing with.”

In separate comments via video link with defense and security leaders of several former Soviet states, Putin once again accused the West of using Ukraine as a tool against his country. .

“For years, the West has brazenly exploited and extracted its resources, encouraged genocide and terrorism in the Donbas and effectively turned the country into a colony,” he said. “Now they are using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in a cynical way, as an attack against Russia by continuing to supply Ukraine with weapons and ammunition, sending mercenaries and pushing the country away. on the road to suicide”.

Ukrainians say they are fighting for freedom against an unwanted aggressor and invader.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by phone on Friday and the two “agreed on the importance of stopping Russia’s insincere calls for a ceasefire”, the office said. by Sunak said. “The prime minister added that the Kremlin needs to withdraw its troops before any deal can be considered.”

Fierce fighting continued Friday in eastern and southern Ukraine, mainly in areas that Russia illegally annexed in September.

Ukraine’s presidential office said five civilians were killed and 13 others injured by Russian shelling in the past 24 hours.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said the Russians were attacking Bakhmut with daily attacks, despite heavy casualties.

“You could most accurately describe those attacks as cannon fodder,” Kyrylenko said in a televised address. “They rely mainly on infantry and less on armor, and they cannot advance.”

In neighboring Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian troops were stepping up their counterattack towards Kreminna and Svatove.

He expressed hope that Ukraine could regain control of Kreminna by the end of the year, and then by the end of winter would regain parts of the region that had been occupied by Russia since the war began.

In the south, Kherson regional governor Yaroslav Yanyshevych said eight civilians had been wounded by Russian shelling in the past 24 hours, and in the city of Kherson, which Ukraine recaptured last month, a children’s hospital and a home body was damaged.

In the neighboring Zaporizhzhia area, Russian forces shelled Nikopol and Chervonohryhorivka, located across the Dnieper River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Zaporizhzhia Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian shelling had damaged residential buildings and power lines.

In the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said three civilians were injured by Russian shelling, one later died.

Associated Press writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark and Jill Lawless in London contributed.

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