UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY NATO CHIEF
By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ruled out on Friday recognizing Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions.
“NATO allies do not and will not recognize any of these territories as part of Russia” because “this land grab is illegal and illegitimate,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.
He asserted that the “sham referendums” organized in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions “were engineered in Moscow and imposed on Ukraine in total violation of international law.”
NATO calls on all states to reject Russia’s “blatant attempts at territorial conquest,” he added.
Stoltenberg pointed out that the war in Ukraine has reached a “pivotal moment” as the partial military mobilization, the illegal annexation, and the nuclear threats show that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war “is not going according to plan.”
Putin “has utterly failed in its strategic objectives,” he further said.
Stoltenberg also reiterated that NATO must continue supporting Ukraine because it will make the world even more dangerous if the country fails to exist as an independent state.
Otherwise, Putin or other authoritarian powers “will see that with impunity one can use military force and invade its neighbor,” he said.
Referring to the recent announcement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on applying for NATO membership under accelerated procedure, Stoltenberg said the country, as any sovereign nation, has the right to “choose its own path” and decide which alliance it adheres to.
At the same time, he underlined, it is up to the NATO allies to decide by unanimity on Ukraine’s membership.
Asked about the suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, Stoltenberg confirmed that NATO ships and planes are present in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea to demonstrate the alliance’s readiness.
In addition, the “ships are also collecting information data which can be helpful both for the ongoing investigation, and also to monitor these critical energy infrastructures,” he said.
NATO allies also step up “sharing of intelligence and sharing of information” to help the investigation and to prevent further incidents, he said.