Poland says it will not send jets to Ukraine

Nato reiterates it will not join the fighting despite Russia's incursion

Polish President Andrzej Duda, left, and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the military airbase in Lask, Poland. AFP
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Poland and Nato on Tuesday ruled out sending fighter jets to help Ukraine fend off a Russian offensive, but finance chiefs from the world's top economies said the sanctions imposed in place of military retaliation were "hitting Vladimir Putin's war chest".

It came on a sixth day of war in Ukraine, when missiles were fired at the city of Kharkiv and a Russian military convoy rolled towards the capital, Kiev. A defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a speech to the European Parliament: "Nobody is going to break us".

Ukraine is receiving military hardware shipped through Nato member Poland, which is acting as a logistical hub. But Polish President Andrzej Duda and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on a visit to a Polish airbase that the alliance was not a party to the conflict and would not provide combat jets.

"We are supporting Ukrainians with humanitarian aid. However, we are not going to send any jets to the Ukrainian airspace," said Mr Duda, dismissing claims that dozens were coming. His response did not appear to answer suggestions that Ukrainian pilots could take control of the fighter jets in Poland.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the European Union of ushering in a "Russophobic frenzy" by financing weapons exports to Ukraine. It came in a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva during which more than 100 diplomats walked out in protest at the incursion.

Mr Lavrov was unable to travel to Geneva because of airspace closures that formed part of a wide package of sanctions imposed by western powers, in what Britain described to the same council in Geneva as a "chorus of condemnation" towards Moscow.

Finance ministers from G7 countries held talks with their Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday and declared themselves satisfied with how financial sanctions on Russia were hitting home, said Germany's Christian Lindner, who chaired the virtual meeting.

Sanctions on Russia's central bank and financial markets were "already surpassing expectations" and "Vladimir Putin's war chest is being severely hit," Mr Lindner said.

He said the ministers had discussed possible further sanctions and considered whether Russia could keep being represented in international institutions such as the G20. It was banished from what was formerly the G8 after its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ukraine wants the EU to show further solidarity by granting it immediate admission to the bloc, a demand renewed on Tuesday by Mr Zelenskyy in his speech that drew a standing ovation from MEPs and top European officials.

Mr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was "giving away its best people" and described Russian cruise missiles hitting the city of Kharkiv on the sixth day of the incursion. An interpreter fought back tears as he said: "This is the price of freedom".

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Ukraine "belongs in our European family" but said there was "still a long path ahead" to full membership.

Polish aid

Asked in Poland if his country would give jets to Ukraine, Mr Duda said: “We are not joining that conflict, Nato is not a party to that conflict."

Speaking before Mr Duda, Mr Stoltenberg said: “Nato is not going to be part of the conflict. Nato is not going to send troops into Ukraine or move planes into Ukrainian airspace.

But he said it was for Mr Duda to comment on Polish planes being made available to Ukrainian pilots.

Mr Stoltenberg said the Russian president had “shattered peace in Europe” through the “unjustified and brutal invasion of Ukraine”.

"Russia must immediately stop the war, pull out all its forces from Ukraine and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts. The world stands with Ukraine in calling for peace,” he said.

Jens Stoltenberg and Andrzej Duda hold a press conference at Lask airbase in Poland. Reuters

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Poland on Tuesday to hold talks in Warsaw, where he said the talks he preferred to resolve the conflict were "impossible at this moment".

"How can you negotiate with somebody whose tanks are rolling towards Kiev and who is bombing innocent civilians?" Mr Johnson said from the Polish capital.

"We must get over that key point that this is not Russia's war, not the Russian people's war, this is Putin's war. And that's been increasingly obvious from everything that he has said and written in the last year," he said.

Mr Johnson said his intention was to protect the people of Ukraine and do "everything we can" to allow Ukrainians to "defend themselves and to have a sovereign, independent Ukraine".

Updated: March 01, 2022, 4:37 PM