Iranian president says NATO expansion to the East causes tension

‘We don’t see resort to war as solution,’ Iran’s FM says of Ukraine crisis

February 24, 2022 - 15:11

TEHRAN – Iran’s foreign minister said on Thursday that resort to war is not a solution to the tension between Russia and Ukraine, blaming NATO’s provocations” for the current conflict.

“We don’t believe that resorting to war is a solution,” Hossein Amir Abdollahian tweeted.

Iran’s chief diplomat insisted that establishing ceasefire and focus on “political and diplomatic” ways are “imperative”.

Russia has launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea.

The attacks began on Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address that he had approved a “special military operation”. The move came after Moscow earlier recognized rebel-held territories in Luhansk and Donetsk and said they had asked for its “help”.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh also said the Islamic Republic is closely monitoring developments in Ukraine with “serious concern”.

On Thursday morning, the Iranian embassy in Kyiv  also asked all Iranians in Ukraine, including students, leave the country by all possible means.

In a telephone conversation with  Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also said the expansion of NATO toward the East is a source of tension.

“The expansion of NATO is a serious threat to the stability and security of independent nations in different regions,” Raisi said in the call.

Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities. Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders into the eastern Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, and landing by sea at the cities of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.

Russian troops attacked Ukraine from Belarus as well as Russia, and an attack was also being launched from Crimea, Ukraine’s border guard service said.

Explosions could be heard before dawn in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Gunfire rattled out near the main airport and sirens blared across the city.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter that Putin had “launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.

Putin said, “We will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” Putin said. “Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had taken out military infrastructure at Ukrainian airbases and degraded its air defenses.

Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights citing a high risk to safety, while Russia suspended domestic flights at airports near its border with Ukraine until March 2.

Russian-backed separatists in the east said they had captured two towns, the RIA news agency reported.

Shortly after Putin spoke, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, who is in Kyiv, said there were explosions in the capital and power had been cut.

It appeared to be a “full-scale attack”, targeting the airport and key buildings, he said. There was “chaos” in the city center, he added.

In an impassioned appeal, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres condemned Russia’s actions.

“In the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia,” he said. “In the name of humanity, do not allow a war to start in Europe which could be the worst war since the beginning of the century with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation but with an impact we cannot even foresee.”

NATO called an emergency meeting with chief Jens Stoltenberg condemning what he said was a “reckless attack”.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Russia faces “unprecedented isolation” over its attack on Ukraine and will be hit with the “harshest sanctions” the EU has ever imposed.

Putin’s address ordering the military action took place at the same time as the UN Security Council met for its second emergency meeting this week.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, who is the current president of the Security Council, admitted to fellow members of the council that “special operations” were under way, insisting to the other ambassadors that the action did not amount to war and was a consequence of Ukraine’s actions.

“The aim of the operation is to protect the people who for eight years have been suffering “genocide of the Ukrainian regime”, he said, claiming the action was justified under Article 51 of the UN Charter, which allows for individual or collective self-defense in the face of an armed attack on a UN member state.

Putin demanded Ukrainian forces lay down their arms, and repeated his position that any Ukrainian membership of NATO was unacceptable to Moscow, according to state media.

There were runs on banks, runs on gas stations, and some people were just running Thursday, as panic set in eastern Ukraine, just a few dozen miles from where Russian troops were reportedly engaged in a fierce firefight with the Ukrainian military.

“It’s panic, don’t you see?” said Yevheni Balai, pointing to a line of anxious Ukrainians standing outside a closed bank, desperate to take out cash.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, called on anyone looking to take up arms against Russian forces to immediately enlist with the country’s territorial defense units. All anyone needs to sign up is a Ukrainian passport, Mr. Reznikov said. “The enemy is attacking, but our army is indestructible,” he said. “Ukraine is moving into all-out defense mode.”

President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus said his country’s forces were not involved in the Russian operation. Speaking at a meeting with military top brass, Lukashenko said that at his request, Russian troops stayed in Belarus, north of Ukraine, after their joint drills with the Belarusian forces. Ukraine’s state border service reported earlier that Russian troops had launched an attack with support from the Belarusian military.

NATO was to hold an emergency session on Thursday morning to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Even with the tons of weapons, ammunition and equipment delivered to Ukraine by Western allies in just the last few weeks, the Ukrainian military is outgunned by the larger, more technologically advanced Russian forces.

Back in December, the commander of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, Gen. Kyrylo O. Budanov, outlined a scenario in which a Russian invasion would begin with airstrikes and rocket attacks aimed at ammunition depots and trench-bound troops — foreshadowing the attack that came early Thursday morning.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, said EU leaders meeting on Thursday will present fresh sanctions targeting “strategic sectors” of the Russian economy. Von der Leyen said EU sanctions will block “the access to technologies and markets that are key for Russia. We will weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernize. And in addition we will freeze Russian assets in the EU and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial markets.”

President Biden plans to impose what he called “severe sanctions” against Russia on Thursday during a public address on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”

The price of oil jumped above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014 and Asian stocks fell on Thursday, extending market turmoil in the United States and Europe that had been driven by fears of a full-scale Russian attack on Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces have shot down six Russian fighters and a helicopter in an increasingly intense battle to maintain control over key cities, a senior Ukrainian military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to release information outside official channels. Ukrainian troops have also repelled, for the time being, Russian advances on two major cities: Chernihiv, in the north near Belarus, and Kharkiv, in the northeast close to Russia’s border, the official said.

Russian troops reached the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and set up checkpoints on a main road on Thursday morning, according to videos posted to the messaging service Telegram. It appeared to be the farthest Russian troops had been seen penetrating into Ukraine.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany met with his security cabinet on Thursday and said in a statement afterward that he would coordinate sanctions with European Union and NATO partners. “The aim of the sanctions is to make it clear to the Russian leadership that they will pay a bitter price for these aggressions,” Scholz said. “It will become clear that Putin made a serious mistake with his war.”

Putin says Russia is a ‘powerful nuclear state’

Putin made clear his target goes beyond his neighbor to America’s “empire of lies,” and he threatened “consequences you have never faced in your history” for “anyone who tries to interfere with us.”

In a speech early Thursday, full of historical grievances and accusations of a relentless Western plot against his country, Putin reminded the world that Russia “remains one of the most powerful nuclear states” with “a certain advantage in several cutting edge weapons.”

In effect, Putin’s speech, intended to justify the invasion, seemed to come close to threatening nuclear war.

In the context of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, Putin said, “There should be no doubt that any potential aggressor will face defeat and ominous consequences should it directly attack our country.”

President Biden, who said Putin “had chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” has said that no American troops will be sent to Ukraine. Its European allies have taken the same position.

“We have made it clear that we don’t have any plans and intention of deploying NATO troops to Ukraine,” Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary-general, said on Thursday.

President Biden said the United States is imposing what he said would be crushing sanctions on Russia for waging war on Ukraine, denouncing Putin for launching a “brutal assault on the people of Ukraine” overnight.

“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “And now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

Putin “has much larger ambitions than Ukraine. He wants to, in fact, re-establish the former Soviet Union. That what this is about,” Biden says, the New York Times reported.

Russian forces have captured the Chernobyl power plant north of Kyiv, site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, “after a fierce battle,” according to Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office. He said the condition of the plant and its nuclear waste storage facilities was unknown.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, appealed to Putin for “an immediate cessation of violence” in a call Thursday. 

The Pentagon said on Thursday that it was sending an additional 7,000 troops to Europe, the New York Times reported.

Defense Secretary Lloyd  Austin III ordered the deployment of an armored brigade combat team to Germany to reassure NATO allies, the Pentagon said in a statement. In particular, American military officials want to send another message: while the United States is staying out of Ukraine, it will not hesitate to act if Putin turns his eye toward a member of the Atlantic alliance.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets and squares of Russian cities on Thursday to protest Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine

The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, called the Russian invasion a forcible attempt to shift European borders and “perhaps even to wipe an entire country off the world map” in a televised address to Germans on Thursday. “With the attack on Ukraine, President Putin wants to turn back time,” Scholz said. “But there is no going back to the time of the 19th century, when great powers decided over the heads of smaller states. There is no going back to the Cold War era, when superpowers divided the world among themselves into zones of influence.”

Putin speaks to Macron, explains Russian actions in Ukraine: Kremlin

Putin spoke by phone to French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday and gave him an "exhaustive" explanation of the reasons for Russia's actions in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin said the call took place at Macron's initiative, and he and Putin agreed to stay in contact.

Macron undertook strenuous diplomacy in recent weeks to try to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine, including holding talks with Putin in the Kremlin.

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