Nato rejects no-fly zone appeal as Russia bombards Ukraine

Russia accused of war crimes for indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas as it besieges cities

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to US secretary of state Antony Blinken after a meeting of foreign ministers at the Nato headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Nato members have rejected appeals from the Ukrainian government to impose a no-fly zone over their country to shield their people from a Russian air bombing campaign.

It comes as a humanitarian disaster unfolds in Ukraine as Russian forces bombard several cities in the second week of an invasion launched by Russian president Vladimir Putin that is thought to have killed thousands.

The 30-member alliance agreed that imposing a no-fly zone was not an option when they met in Brussels on Friday due to the risk of escalating the conflict into a wider war.

“Allies agreed we should not have planes operating over Ukrainian air space or Nato troops operating on Ukrainian territory,” Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting. “We are not part of this conflict, and we have a responsibility to ensure it does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine.”


He warned that he expected many more people to die.

“The days to come are likely to be worse. With more death, more suffering, and more destruction, as the Russian armed forces bring in heavier weaponry and continue their attacks across the country,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

Nuclear alarm

An overnight assault by Russian forces to seize Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant caused international alarm, with the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, describing it as a “dangerous escalation”.

“By the grace of God, the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night,” she told an emergency UN Security Council meeting. “We all waited to exhale as we watched the horrific situation unfold in real time.”

In a show of unity, EU foreign affairs ministers gathered for a joint meeting with the Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as the United States’s Antony Blinken, Canada’s Mélanie Joly, and Britain’s Liz Truss.

Following the summit, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell called for a humanitarian corridor to be opened up into Ukraine, noting that the international Red Cross had not been able to enter.

“The Russians are bombing and shelling everything. Hospitals, houses, schools. This is a barbarian way of doing war,” Mr Borrell said. “It looks like they want to destroy Ukraine.”

Cluster bombs

Human Rights Watch said it had collected evidence that Russian forces fired cluster bombs into at least three residential areas of the northeastern city of Kharkiv this week, killing civilians, something that could constitute a war crime due to the indiscriminate nature of the weapon used.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told media he believed war crimes were being committed “on a daily basis”.

Ireland joined 37 other countries in referring reports of atrocities by Russia to the International Criminal Court earlier this week. EU countries agreed on Friday to collect and jointly pool evidence of war crimes to be stored centrally in an effort to help the prosecution case.

US foreign secretary Mr Blinken told journalists that it was imperative for global security that countries not be allowed to seize territory by force without consequences.

“If we allow those principles to be challenged as Putin is doing now with impunity,” Mr Blinken said, ”that will open a Pandora’s box of trouble for not just us, but quite frankly for the entire world.”

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times