By Tom Ozimek
As the Russo–Ukraine war entered its 12th day, hopes dimmed for a near-term negotiated settlement to the hostilities as Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday doubled down on his campaign to “demilitarize” Ukraine, while Russia’s Defense Ministry warned neighboring countries to stay out or be considered parties to the war.
In separate phone calls on Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin said Russia would only halt its military operation if Ukrainian forces stopped fighting and Moscow’s “well-known” demands were met, according to the Kremlin’s readout of the calls.
Russia is demanding that Ukraine halt military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and recognize the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent territories, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, according to Reuters. Peskov told the outlet that Russia had told Ukraine it was ready to stop its military action “in a moment” if Kyiv met its conditions.
Putin also warned in a Sunday televised meeting with flight attendants from Russian airline Aeroflot that Ukrainian statehood was in jeopardy and compared Western sanctions against Moscow as equivalent to “declaring war.”
In a further sign of rising tensions, Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday warned that any country that offers the use of its airfields to Ukraine’s military for attacks on Russian assets could be considered as having entered the conflict. It comes amid rumors that Poland might supply fighter jets to Ukrainian forces as part of military aid.
Ukraine has requested jet fighters from Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovakia.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that Poland has been given the “green light” from the United States to send the jets as part of military aid support to Ukraine.
Blinken said during a press conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu on Sunday that Washington has been holding discussions with Warsaw regarding a proposed deal that would let Ukraine to obtain warplanes from Poland.
Under the proposed deal, Poland would provide Ukraine with its MiG-29 fighter jets in return for having its hangars refilled by the United States with American-made F-16s.
But Poland, a NATO ally, has denied plans to provide its airfields for use by Ukrainian forces or send its fighter jets into the combat zone, according to the prime minister’s office.
Marcin Wasik, Poland’s deputy head of internal affairs, told a Polish radio outlet in an interview Monday that “Poland’s stance remains unchanged” on the provision of fighter jets, saying “we have not sent any jets to Ukraine,” while adding that any decisions in this regard should be made jointly by NATO allies.
His remarks were echoed by Polish national security chief Pawel Soloch, who said on Monday that no decisions have been taken on providing warplanes to Ukraine.
“Our government has already stated that we have no plans to provide the jet fighters,” Soloch said, according to Polish state television TVP, adding that decisions in this regard would need to be taken by NATO as a whole.
Soloch added that, while Poland continues to support Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression by providing military aid, its main focus is on providing humanitarian relief.
Over 1 million people fleeing the war in Ukraine have entered Poland since Russian forces launched a multi-pronged attack on Feb. 24, according to the Polish prime minister’s office.
Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a proposal that has been dismissed by the NATO alliance as too provocative and carrying the risk of sparking World War Three.
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