A satellite image shows burning and destroyed apartment buildings, in Mariupol, Ukraine A satellite image shows burning and destroyed apartment buildings, in Mariupol, Ukraine 

NATO fears nuclear strike in Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden is visiting Europe for talks with fellow leaders of the NATO military alliance about the Russian invasion of Ukraine amid concerns Moscow may use nuclear and other mass destruction weapons there. Biden arrives as the human suffering and death toll mounts of Europe's most significant military conflict since World War Two.

By Stefan J. Bos

Ahead of U.S. Presiden Biden’s arrival in Brussels, leaders expressed concerns about the further escalation of the war in Ukraine 

The Kremlin said through a spokesman that Russian President Vladimir Putin could even use nuclear weapons if Russia faced "an existential threat."

That prompted the United States to call the remarks “dangerous.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the NATO military alliance would help Ukraine prepare for nuclear and other attacks from Russia. “Tomorrow (Thursday), I expect allies to agree on additional support [to Ukraine]. That includes cyber security assistance, as well as equipment that helps Ukraine to protect against chemical, biological and radiological, and nuclear threats,” he said.

Stoltenberg also stressed that NATO would increase its military presence in Eastern Europe. There will be four new NATO battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia as a first step. 

Along with the existing forces in Poland and the Baltics, NATO will have eight battle groups of thousands of troops to protect NATO's eastern flank. 

No-fly zone

So far, the alliance has declined to help enforce a no-fly zone above Ukraine. Stoltenberg says NATO wants to prevent a direct military confrontation with Russia, potentially leading to World “[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin’s invasion is brutal. And the human suffering is horrifying and painful to witness. We are determined to do all we can to support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg noted. 

Yet he added that “we have a responsibility to ensure that the war does not escalate beyond Ukraine and becomes a conflict between NATO and Russia. This would cause even more death and even more destruction.” 

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

The NATO reluctance to intervene in Ukraine comes despite outrage about Russian forces' reported targeting of civilian sites in Ukraine. 

That includes, for instance, the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, where authorities say a hospital a theater end arts school were bombed in recent days.

Yet, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky says at least 100,000 civilians remain trapped inside Mariupol in "inhumane conditions." 

Ukraine claims thousands of people were deported to Russia from the city against their will, though Moscow acknowledged hundreds of what it calls refugees were transported to Russian territory. 

Humanitarian convoy

And Zelensky claims that a humanitarian convoy was captured by Russian forces and Ukrainian emergency workers taken prisoner.

Elsewhere even in the capital Kyiv the war is getting closer to residents after eight people reportedly died since Tuesday dead in shelling on a residential area and shopping center.

And Russian naval forces are reportedly attaching some residential buildings on the edge of the city of Odesa, a major seaport and transport hub in the southwest of the country. 

Moscow has denied targeting civilian sites, contradicting testimonies from numerous witnesses and reporters on the ground.

Despite setbacks, the U.S. military says Ukrainian soldiers are successfully fighting back against invading Russian forces to reclaim ground in some parts of the country. 

There are reports of the Ukrainian flag being raised again in the suburb of Makariv, west of the capital Kyiv, which saw fierce fighting. 

And Ukrainian negotiators claim Ukrainian resilience is causing Russia to "more adequately assess the situation" of the war. But any decision on a peace agreement to end the war must be made between the Ukrainian and Russian leaders, a moment that couldn't come soon enough for millions of refugees.

23 March 2022, 15:55