Russian invasion: Nato vows to modernise Ukraine’s military
Nato yesterday branded Russia the most "direct threat" to allied security after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and vowed to modernise the beleaguered Ukrainian military, saying it stood four-square with Kyiv in "the heroic defence of their country".
Completing a summit dominated by the geopolitical upheaval caused by the invasion, Nato formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance and pledged to reinforce combat-ready and rapid-reaction forces on its eastern flank, closest to Russia.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Nato's expansion was "destabilising" and would not boost its members' security.
President Joe Biden announced additional US land, air and sea deployments across Europe, including a permanent army headquarters with accompanying battalion in Poland, the first full-time US deployment on Nato's eastern fringes.
As Western leaders met in Madrid, in Ukraine officials complained that Russian missiles had hit civilian housing and businesses in and around the cities of Dnipro, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv, leaving at least seven dead and 14 wounded, reports Reuters.
Russian said it had inflicted severe casualties on Ukrainian troops defending the town of Lysychansk, in the eastern Donbas region, and said the Kharkiv attack had hit Ukrainian command centres and a training base for foreign "mercenaries".
Britain's Ministry of Defence said Russia was likely to keep making major strikes in an effort to hamper Ukrainian resupplies to frontlines, and more civilian casualties were likely.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated to Nato leaders that Kyiv needed more weapons, and faster, to start countering Russia's edge in firepower, and warned that the Kremlin's ambitions did not stop at Ukraine.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba later praised Nato's "clear-eyed stance" on Russia, adding: "An equally strong and active position on Ukraine will help to protect the Euro-Atlantic security and stability."