EU closes airspace to Russian airlines and will buy arms from Ukraine
The European Union plans to close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund arms purchases from Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media in its latest response to the Russian invasion, officials said on Sunday. European Commission officials.
The measures, which Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she expected to see approved, would mark the first time the 27-nation bloc has funded the purchase and delivery of arms and weapons. equipment to an attacked country.
“Another taboo has fallen. The taboo that the European Union would not supply arms in a war,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
The Commission’s plans followed an announcement earlier today that Germany was committing 100 billion euros ($113 billion) to a special fund for the armed forces and would now keep defense spending above 2% of GDP. The shift underscored how Russia’s war on Ukraine was rewriting Europe’s post-World War II security and defense policy in a way that was unthinkable just a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, anti-war protesters have taken to the streets of Berlin, Rome, Prague, Istanbul and other cities – even Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg and a dozen Belarusian towns – to demand an end of war, the largest ground offensive on the continent since World War II.
Human rights activists have reported that more than 170 people have been arrested during the Belarusian protests, even as the country’s authoritarian ruler offers the country’s territory to his ally Russia. In Minsk, a large pile of flowers continued to grow in the Ukrainian Embassy building.
Tens of thousands of people gathered outside Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Sunday, some holding up posters with slogans such as “Hands off Ukraine”, “Tanks at windmills” and “Putin, go away”. therapy and leave Ukraine and the world in peace”.
The EU plan to finance arms purchases was unprecedented and would use millions of euros to help buy air defense systems, anti-tank weapons, ammunition and other military equipment from the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It would also provide fuel, protective gear, helmets and first aid kits.
The system could also use EU money to reimburse EU countries that have already sent lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine this year, prompting those countries to invest more in that aid.
To strengthen its military training and support missions around the world, the bloc of 27 countries has set up a European Peace Facility, a fund with a ceiling of around 5.7 billion euros (6, $4 billion). Part of the money can be used to train and equip partner countries, including with lethal weapons.
Von der Leyen said that beyond arms purchases, EU countries would close EU airspace to Russians – decisions that more than a dozen EU members already had announced.
“We are proposing a ban on all Russian-owned, Russian-registered or Russian-controlled aircraft. These aircraft will no longer be able to land, take off or fly over EU territory,” she said.
She said the EU would also ban “the Kremlin’s media machine.” State corporations Russia Today and Sputnik, and their affiliates, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and sow division in our union.
Von der Leyen added that the EU will also target Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for his support of Russia’s extensive military campaign in Ukraine.
“We will hit the Lukashenko regime with a new sanctions package,” she said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s announcement of new defense funding is extremely important for Germany, which has been criticized by the United States and other NATO allies for failing to invest adequate in its defense budget. NATO member states have pledged to spend 2% of their GDP on defence, but Germany has always spent much less.
“It is clear that we must invest much more in the security of our country, in order to protect our freedom and our democracy,” Scholz told a special session of the Bundestag in Berlin.
Scholz said the 100 billion euro ($113 billion) fund was currently a one-off measure for 2022. It was not immediately clear whether similar funding would be allocated in future years. But Scholz indicated that Germany will exceed the 2% of GDP threshold in the future, signaling a future overall increase in defense spending.
A day earlier, Germany announced another major policy change, saying it would send weapons and other supplies directly to Ukraine, including 500 Stinger missiles, which are used to shoot down helicopters and planes. fighters, and 1,000 anti-tank weapons.
Israel announced that it was sending 100 tons of humanitarian aid – medical equipment and medicine, tents, sleeping bags and blankets – to help civilians in Ukraine. Israel also offered itself as a potential mediator in a phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Putin, the Kremlin and Israel said. Bennett also spoke Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish.
As Greece sent more military aid, Turkish officials called the Russian invasion a ‘war’, a categorization that could lead Ankara to close the Turkish Strait to Russian warships, something Ukraine has demanded more early this week. The Montreux Convention of 1936 gives Turkey the right to bar “belligerent states” from using the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus in times of war, but provides an exception for Black Sea vessels to return to port.
On the sanctions front, Japan has joined the United States and European countries in removing major Russian banks from the SWIFT international banking system. Japan will also freeze the assets of Putin and other senior Russian officials, while sending $100 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has told reporters.
Catholic and Orthodox religious leaders, meanwhile, on Sunday prayed for peace, expressed solidarity with Ukrainians and denounced the Russian invasion.
“Those who wage war forget humanity,” Francis said. He refrained from quoting Russia by name, out of apparent deference to his hopes of maintaining an open dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Also on Sunday, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople described the invasion of Russia as “beyond all sense of law and morals” and pleaded for an end to the war.
Patriarch Bartholomew is considered the spiritual leader and first among equals of Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world. He granted independence from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which in 2019 separated it from the Russian Church to which it had been linked since 1686. The Russian Orthodox Church consequently severed its relations with him.
Schultheis contributed from Vienna, Austria. Nicole Winfield in Rome, Josef Federman in Kyiv, Ukraine contributed.
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