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NATO Chief Urges Allies to Continue Funding Ukraine’s Defense Needs


A soldier of the 12th Special Forces Azov Brigade of Ukraine's National Guard prepares to fire a 155mm self-propelled gun M109 Paladin towards Russian positions at the front line, near Kreminna, in Ukraine's Luhansk region, Jan. 28, 2024.
A soldier of the 12th Special Forces Azov Brigade of Ukraine's National Guard prepares to fire a 155mm self-propelled gun M109 Paladin towards Russian positions at the front line, near Kreminna, in Ukraine's Luhansk region, Jan. 28, 2024.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine should continue to receive the support it needs to fight Russia off its land; otherwise, the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world will be more vulnerable if Russian President Vladimir Putin gets what “he wants from Ukraine.”

Such a scenario would also embolden a land grab by other authoritarian regimes in other parts of the world, Stoltenberg said.

During a TV interview with Fox News Sunday, Stoltenberg also said that Beijing is watching closely NATO’s response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “Today, it’s Ukraine, tomorrow, it might be Taiwan," the NATO chief said.

Also Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a drop in aid from the United States to Kyiv would send a poor message, as U.S. President Joe Biden has been stymied in approving further support by Republicans in the U.S. Congress.

With an eye on U.S. aid potentially diminishing, Zelenskyy urged Germany to use its economic weight to rally EU partners to give more to Kyiv in its fight against Russia.

"Passivity from the United States or the lack of support would be a bad signal," he told German national broadcaster ARD.

NATO’s Stoltenberg, in responding to a question whether NATO’s 2024 military exercises, the largest since WWII, may provoke a response from Beijing’s and Moscow’s strongmen, he said the North Atlantic Alliance is meant to prevent war not to provoke war.

NATO exercises

Operation Steadfast Defender 24 will see about 90,000 NATO military personnel take part in a range of drills across Europe in the coming months. Fifty naval vessels, 80 aircraft and over 1,100 combat vehicles will be involved.

The exercises “will show that NATO can conduct and sustain complex, multidomain operations over several months, across thousands of kilometers, from the high north to central and eastern Europe, and in any condition,” the 31-nation alliance said.

Stoltenberg is meeting with top U.S. defense officials and lawmakers this week to urge the continuation of funding to Ukraine, which currently is bogged down in Congress over a dispute on U.S. border policies and other political issues.

Ukraine's aid remains a divisive issue, with critics skeptical over Kyiv’s ongoing fight against corruption.

Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said Saturday that employees of a Ukrainian arms company conspired with officials to embezzle almost $40 million that had been earmarked for mortar shells to fight the war with Russia.

The agency said five people had been charged and one had been detained while trying to leave the country. The five could face up to 12 years’ imprisonment.

The country’s prosecutor general said the funds have been seized and are to be returned to the Ukrainian defense budget.

Watch related report by Arash Arabasadi:

Ukraine Says It Uncovered Massive Defense Procurement Fraud
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A Russian missile struck an industrial site in the central Ukrainian district of Kremenchuk Sunday.

"For the second day in a row, the enemy is attacking Poltava region," Poltava Regional Governor Filip Pronin wrote on the Telegram messaging app, noting that the target was in Kremenchuk district.

Pronin later said there were no casualties.

A missile attack on Saturday hit an industrial site in the same area, triggering a fire. No casualties were reported in that incident.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday in its daily Ukraine intelligence report that recent statistics indicate that arson attacks on Russia’s military enlistment offices have doubled in the last six months.

Russia has blamed the arson on people "acting at the behest of Western officials." The British ministry said it sees the attacks on the enlistment offices differently, saying that the increasing number of attacks "is highly likely due to a greater sense of disaffection with the war" within the Russian population, especially among those who would be called up, if a second wave of mobilization were announced.

Suspects who have been accused of launching the fiery attacks have been charged with terrorism and treason, according to the British ministry.

While Putin promised in his annual news conference last month that there would not be any more mobilizations, the growing number of arson attacks on Russian enlistment offices, the British ministry said, "suggest a lack of confidence in this promise."

Plane crash POWs

Officials in Ukraine say Russia has provided no credible evidence to support its claims that Ukrainian forces shot down a military transport plane allegedly carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, who were to be swapped for Russian POWs.

Ukraine’s coordination staff for the treatment of prisoners of war said relatives of the named POWs were unable to identify their loved ones in crash site photos provided by Russian authorities.

The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service also said Friday that Kyiv had no verifiable information about the passengers aboard the Russian plane.

Moscow says nine Russians also died in the crash.

Ukraine disputes Russia's assertion that it had been forewarned that a plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war would be flying over Russia's southwestern Belgorod region at that time.

At the U.N. Security Council, a Ukrainian envoy repeated her government’s call for an international investigation, saying the Russian military did not allow emergency workers access to the crash site.

Henry Ridgwell in London contributed to this report. Some material came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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