A man walks past a destroyed Russian tank on display in central kyiv on June 29, 2022 (AFP/Sergei SUPINSKY)
NATO promised on Wednesday to support Ukraine as long as necessary in the face of Russia’s “cruelty”, at a summit in Madrid, while the Russian president denounced the “imperialist ambitions” of the Alliance which seeks to assert its “hegemony”.
“Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, referring to a “moral and political obligation” for the Atlantic Alliance, meeting until Thursday in Madrid. , where it validated the future enlargement to Sweden and Finland.
In a joint statement, the member countries of NATO, which have already supplied billions of dollars of weapons to kyiv, specified that they had agreed on a new aid plan involving the “delivery of non-lethal military equipment” and by strengthening Ukrainian defenses against cyber-attacks.
“Russia’s appalling cruelty is causing immense human suffering and massive displacement,” they wrote, saying Moscow bore “full responsibility for this humanitarian catastrophe.”
Announcements welcomed by the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba, who welcomed this “strong position” and “lucid” on Russia.
In response to the declarations of NATO leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced Wednesday, during a press conference in Ashkhabad, the Turkmen capital, the “imperial ambitions” of the NATO Alliance which, according to him, seeks to affirm its “hegemony” via the Ukrainian conflict.
“Ukraine and the good of the Ukrainian people is not the goal of the West and NATO, but a means of defending their own interests,” he said.
– “Significant threat” –
The NATO summit enabled the member countries of the Alliance to adopt a new strategic roadmap qualifying Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to the security of the allies”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks by videoconference before the NATO summit in Madrid on June 29, 2022 (AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS)
“We cannot rule out the possibility of an attack on the sovereignty or territorial integrity of the allies”, assures this document, which had not been revised since 2010.
This new roadmap also targets for the first time China which represents, according to NATO, a “challenge” for its “security”.
Displaying their unity, the NATO countries have validated a strengthening of their military presence on the eastern flank of the Alliance, which will increase the number of its “high-readiness forces” to more than 300,000 soldiers.
“This is the most important reorganization of our collective defense since the Cold War”, underlined Jens Stoltenberg.
“We are there” and “we are proving that NATO is more necessary than ever”, insisted American President Joe Biden, who announced for his part a reinforcement of the American military presence throughout Europe and especially in the Baltic States.
– Veto turc left –
The Madrid summit also made it possible to officially launch the process of joining Sweden and Finland, which decided to join NATO in reaction to the Russian offensive in Ukraine, breaking with a long tradition of non-alignment.
(lr) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his American counterpart Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on June 29, 2022 in Madrid (AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS)
This membership has so far been blocked by Turkey, which accused Stockholm and Helsinki in particular of harboring militants of the Kurdish organization PKK, which Ankara considers “terrorist”.
But after long negotiations, Ankara gave its agreement on Tuesday evening to the entry into NATO of these two Nordic countries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having estimated that he had obtained their “full cooperation” in his fight against the PKK.
This upcoming enlargement of NATO to the two Nordic countries has angered Moscow.
It is “a deeply destabilizing factor for international affairs”, said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who denounced an “aggressive” movement towards Russia.
Workers in the rubble of a shopping mall hit by Russian missiles, June 29, 2022 in Kremenchuk, Ukraine (Ukrainian State Emergency Service Press Service/STR)
In a statement, Russian diplomacy also threatened Norway with reprisals, accusing this NATO member country of blocking the transit of goods to Russians settled on a Norwegian Arctic archipelago, Svalbard.
Vladimir Putin “hoped for less from NATO on his western front” but “he was completely wrong”: “he is getting more from NATO”, launched British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the agreement reached in Madrid.
– “Intensity peak” –
On the ground, Ukraine nevertheless continued to pay a heavy price for the war, with new deadly attacks against civilians, notably in Mikolaiv (south), where five people died in a strike on a residential building, according to the regional authorities.
Map of the situation in Ukraine as of June 29 at 7 a.m. GMT (AFP /)
The bombings came two days after a strike that ripped through a crowded shopping center in Kremenchuk, 330 kilometers southeast of kyiv, killing at least 18 people and around 40 missing, according to the Ukrainian government.
Mr. Putin on Wednesday evening rejected the responsibility of the Russian army in this strike. “Our army does not hit any civilian infrastructure site,” he said.
In Lyssytchansk, in eastern Ukraine, the “frequency” of Russian bombardments is “enormous”, estimated the governor of the Lugansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï. “We are witnessing a peak of intensity in the fighting,” continued on Ukrainian television.
In addition, the Ukrainian authorities announced that they had recovered 144 soldiers, including 95 “Azovstal defenders” in Mariupol as part of the “largest exchange (of prisoners with Moscow) since the start of the Russian invasion”.
In a video late Wednesday, Zelensky also announced he was ending diplomatic ties with Syria, after the regime in Damascus recognized the independence of the pro-Russian separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, backed by Moscow since 2014. .
Flowers, candles and stuffed animals left outside the Kremenchuk shopping center the day after a Russian missile strike on June 28, 2022 in Ukraine (AFP / Genya SAVILOV)
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said on Wednesday that Russia had “failed on all its major objectives” on the military level. The war has a “massive cost” for Moscow, he assured in an interview with LBC radio, estimating at “25,000” the number of Russian soldiers killed since the start of the conflict.
A report attributed by Boris Johnson to the “male toxicity” of Vladimir Putin. “If Putin was a woman, (…) I really don’t think he would have embarked on this crazy macho war,” said the British Prime Minister on the German television channel ZDF.