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Kremlin Warns of Escalation if NATO Troops Fight in Ukraine

The Kremlin has warned Kyiv's European allies that sending troops to fight in Ukraine would lead to the "inevitability" of war between Russia and NATO after France said that, despite a current lack of consensus, "nothing," including sending Western forces to fight on the Ukrainians' side, should be ruled out in terms of preventing a Russian victory in Ukraine.

Speaking after a summit of continental leaders in Paris on February 26, French President Emmanuel Macron said there was a "broad consensus to do more and quicker" for Ukraine as participants agreed to create a coalition to supply Ukraine with medium- and long-range missiles and bombs to back Kyiv's efforts to stave off Russia's invasion.

Macron told a news conference that "no consensus" existed on the sending of European ground troops to Ukraine, but added, "nothing should be excluded to achieve our objective. Russia cannot win that war."

Asked about Macron's remark, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on February 27 that "the very fact of discussing the possibility of sending certain contingents to Ukraine from NATO countries is a very important new element."

"We would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability [of a direct conflict between Russian and NATO]," Peskov said.

Several European NATO members on February 27 rejected the possibility of sending troops into Ukraine.

"What was agreed from the beginning among ourselves and with each other also applies to the future, namely that there will be no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European states or NATO states," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who attended the Paris gathering, told journalists.

In Prague, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his visiting Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, said their governments were not contemplating such a move.

"I am convinced that we should develop the paths of support that we embarked on after Russia's aggression," Fiala told a news conference alongside Tusk.

"I believe we don't need to open some other methods or ways," he added.

"Poland does not plan to send its troops to the territory of Ukraine," Tusk said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the Associated Press on February 27 that "NATO allies are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine. We have done that since 2014 and stepped up after the full-scale invasion. But there are no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine."

The Paris gathering was also attended by Polish President Andrzej Duda, and leaders from the Baltic nations, while the United States was represented by its top diplomat for Europe, James O'Brien, and Britain sent Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

Zelenskiy, who addressed the summit via video link, called on European leaders to ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot destroy our achievements and cannot expand his aggression to other nations."

Ukraine relies heavily on advanced weaponry and ammunition supplies from its Western allies, mainly from the United States, to resist increasingly intense assaults by Russian forces who have superiority in manpower and a large supply of ammunition.

Outgunned and outmanned Ukrainian troops have been recently forced to withdraw from some of their defensive positions in the east as a critical U.S. military aid package worth $61 billion remains blocked in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Europe will help Ukraine "to take the initiative and act together at a time when there is uncertainty on the part of the United States regarding aid," Macron said,

Participants to the gathering said there was increasing support from European countries, including France, for a Czech initiative to buy ammunition and shells outside the EU and send them to Ukraine.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands was willing to provide more than 100 million euros for that purpose.

By RFE/RL 

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