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NATO’s 'mistake' with Ukraine membership in face of Russia: 'Can't reverse that now'




Kyiv reporter reveals how Ukrainians really feel about Russia

Russian forces have begun returning to their bases after the completion of military exercises on the border with Ukraine, it was announced this morning. A Defence Ministry spokesman said: “Units of the Southern and Western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons.” While it raises a degree of hope for possible de-escalation, large-scale drills are still ongoing, and it is not clear how many units are being withdrawn, with Russia having massed more than 130,000 troops along its shared border with Ukraine. The news comes ahead of the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels today.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to attend, where the military aliance’s response to the ongoing crisis will be discussed.

While many have hit-out at Russia for its increasing aggression, Dr Paul Flenley, an expert in Russian foreign policy, and a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Portsmouth, said the ongoing crisis could be seen as NATO’s own doing.

He told “The mistake NATO made was in 2008 at the Bucharest NATO conference, explicitly offering membership to Ukraine and Georgia.

“Had they just left it vague and said it’s open to any democracy to join NATO if they wanted to [they would not have the current issues with Ukraine], it’s this explicit promise that has created this dilemma really.

“Obviously, they can’t reverse that now. So Putin isn’t going to get any movement from the West on that one.”

READ MORE: Europe Russia border map: Key tension lines pinpointed


NATO promised that Ukraine will be able to join at some point. (Image: GETTY)

Ukrainian activists protest against Putin

Activists call on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to implement sanctions against Putin. (Image: GETTY)

Ukraine and Georgia were denied membership at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, but then-Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer promised that they would both eventually become members.

President Vladimir Putin has always been openly hostile to Ukrainian membership of NATO.

He has bemoaned the “loss” of former Soviet republics, which included Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Though Ukraine has had a partnership with NATO since the Nineties, it has largely been a loose one.

In February 2008, Putin addressed the prospect of Ukrainian membership of NATO when then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko visited the Kremlin.

Ukrainian military patrols.

A Ukrainian soldier patrols a military position on the border. (Image: GETTY)

He said: “It is horrible to say and even horrible to think that, in response to the deployment of [NATO missile facilities] in Ukrainian territory, which cannot theoretically be ruled out, Russia could target its missile systems at Ukraine.

“Imagine this just for a second.”

Dr Flenley said that Ukraine is important to Russia because many there do not view it as a separate country, and explained: “Russians see Ukraine as not really being a foreign country in the way that France is for the UK. It’s very much closer.”

He added: “For Russia it’s difficult to see Ukraine as a wholly independent separate country.

“It’s part of Russian history and that’s why, to have NATO troops and Ukraine becoming part of NATO, it really hurts.

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Russia military vs Ukraine

How the Russian and Ukrainian military compare. (Image: Express Newspapers)

“This thing which is part of us, Ukraine, is now going to be part of a hostile military alliance.

“So Ukraine is particularly sensitive within Russian national thinking. That’s not just Putin, it’s widespread in Russia.

“They see Ukrainians as their brothers, as part of us and that certainly underpins the relationship.”

Western Ukraine has always been significantly more pro-NATO compared to eastern Ukraine, which is far more anti-NATO and pro-Russia.

According to a survey conducted by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future last month, some 64 percent of Ukrainians support NATO membership, while 17 percent do not.

Russia’s Defence Ministry shares tanks moving back to base

Those most in favour of joining NATO were in the west of Ukraine and Kiev, where the pro-NATO figure was 73 percent and 71 percent respectively.

In the east of Ukraine, however, just 47 percent of people support the idea.

Dr Flenley said: “Parts of western Ukraine were never formally part of Russia, they were part of Poland and attached to Ukraine after the Second World War.

“The more Ukrainian speaking parts of Ukraine don’t have this kind of connection with Russia, although lots of them are Russian speakers.”

It is this national pride that makes any potential invasion a “great gamble”, according to Dr Flenley.

He explained the Ukrainian army has been re-equipped, and would resist Russian forces., and said: “They would resist and they would have the will.

“Among Russian troops, if they invaded, it’s doubtful whether they would have much passion.

“They’d be questioning why are we invading Ukraine, especially when the body bags start going home, whereas Ukrainians would be fighting for their independence, so the passion would be much greater on the Ukrainian side.”



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'This is huge' Swedish Air Force jet deployed over Belarus border in threat to Putin




The Scandinavian country is not a member of NATO, but could be ready to trade in its neutral status in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

News of Stockholm’s decision to send a jet was revealed by twitter user Jamming.

They wrote: “Swedish Air Force Korpen active over Poland border area with Belarus.

“Sweden part of surveillance of Belarus and Ukraine!!!

“This is a huge political statement! Update on SwAF Korpen.”


The Gulfstream IV aircraft was tracked taking off from Linking airport and then flying towards the city of Grodno in western Belarus.

It was flying at an altitude of just under 12,000 metres at a speed of 836 kilometres per hour.

Although Sweden is not a NATO member, it is an “enhanced opportunity partner” of the military alliance.

The government also signed a statement in 2018 pledging to strengthen its defence cooperation.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson rejected calls by opposition parties earlier this month for the country to join NATO.

She argued that such a move would further destabilise Europe.

Her statement came in the wake of threats from Moscow that NATO membership would bring “serious military-political consequences” for Sweden.

However, there is growing public support among Swedes for their country to join the transatlantic military alliance.

A poll conducted in late February by broadcaster SVT found that 41 percent of the public supported NATO membership, while thirty-five percent were against.

It was the first time an opinion study in Sweden had found more people in favour of the country joining NATO than were against it.



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Putin humiliated: Russia tries and fails to capture defiant Ukraine village for tenth time




Russia has tried and failed to capture the village of the Chornobaevka ten times, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Aleksey Arestovich. Videos shared by Ukrainian officials online showed the “tenth defeat of the Russian invaders in Chornobaevka”. The continued failures to capture the village comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last night that his country’s forces had “dealt powerful blows” to the Russian military.

Mr Arestovich told a press conference that Russian troops had tried to take Chornobaevka for the tenth time, but the assault again ended in failure.

Following this, the head of the nearby Mykolaiv Regional State Administration Vitaly Kim published a video showing “the defeat” as explosions erupt on the outskirts of the village.

The resolute village has become famous in Ukraine for its defence, as President Zelensky commended Chornobaivka last weekend for fending off six invasions at the time.

He said: “Ukrainian Chornobaivka will go down in war history. This is a place where the Russian military and their commanders have shown themselves for who they truly are – incompetent, capable of simply handing over their people for slaughter.

“Our military has annihilated the invaders near Chornobaivka six times.

“Six times, yet they keep coming back.”

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Online users ridiculed the latest Russian failures and hailed the Ukrainian defiance, with one Reddit user remarking: “At some point, I think every military intelligence outfit looking at this must be wondering how bad the rot is in the Russian military.”

One user visavillem added: “So this is the 10th time. Are Russians trying to bait Ukrainians to waste ammo with some obsolete/broken equipment, or are they really so stupid, that they keep stepping on the same rake again and again?”

Another user on Reddit adfgqert posted: “The Ukrainian people have resolve and determination that is beyond what I think is normal.

“Beyond inspirational and they bring fighting for what they believe in to a new level for me.” 

This comes amid ongoing setbacks for Russian military forces in the south of the country.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Russia had withdrawn most of its helicopters from a strategic airport in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, according to satellite images.

Kherson has also been the site of several local protests against the occupying Russian soldiers.

The official said: “We can’t corroborate exactly who is in control of Kherson but the point is, it doesn’t appear to be as solidly in Russian control as it was before.

“That would make it very, very difficult for them to make any kind of ground movement on Odesa.

“That would be a significant development, no question about that, in terms of the southern part of the war.” 


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