Nato chief Stoltenberg makes first visit to Ukraine since Russian invasion

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Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Ukraine for the first time since last year’s invasion by Russia, an alliance official said on Thursday.

“The Nato secretary general is in Ukraine. We will release more information as soon as possible,” said an alliance official, who asked not to be identified in line with Nato procedures.

Pictures of Mr Stoltenberg apparently paying tribute to fallen Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv’s St Michael’s Square were published by local media.

Apart from the important symbolism of the visit, the exact purpose of Mr Stoltenberg’s trip was not immediately clear. Nato has no official presence in Ukraine.

As an organisation of 31 countries, it only provides nonlethal support: generators, medical equipment, tents, military uniforms and other supplies, to the government in Kyiv.

Mr Stoltenberg has been the strong voice of the alliance throughout the year-long war and has been instrumental in garnering and co-ordinating support by the 31 members for the embattled nation as it sought to hold on to its territory.

Mr Stoltenberg had been to Kyiv before the war, but this is his first visit during the hostilities and underscores the longstanding commitments of the alliance in defence of Ukraine’s independence.

Earlier this month, Finland joined Nato, dealing a major blow to Russian president Vladimir Putin with a historic re-alignment of Europe’s post-Cold War security landscape triggered by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Nordic country’s membership doubles Russia’s border with the world’s biggest security alliance.

Neighbouring Sweden is expected to join in coming months, too, possibly by the time US president Joe Biden and his Nato counterparts meet in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on July 11-12.

The world’s biggest security alliance has focused on bolstering defences on its own territory to dissuade Putin from attacking any member country.

Under Nato’s collective security guarantee, an attack on one member country is considered to be an attack on them all.

The US and many other members are providing weapons, ammunition and training for Ukraine’s embattled troops bilaterally and in groups, but Nato as a whole wants to avoid being dragged into any potential war with nuclear-armed Russia.

On Friday, Stoltenberg will attend a Ukraine defence contact group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

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