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NATO puts warplanes on alert, to increase troop presence on eastern flank

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NATO said on Thursday it would take new deterrence and defence steps after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, which would include putting over 100 warplanes on high alert and further increase the presence of troops on its eastern flank, according to Reuters. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said there would be a virtual emergency summit of the alliance’s 30 nations on Friday, and they would be joined by the leaders of Sweden, Finland and European Union institutions.

Russian forces invaded Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, confirming the worst fears of the West with the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

“Peace on our continent has been shattered,” Stoltenberg told a news conference. “Russia is using force to try to rewrite history, and deny Ukraine its free and independent path.”

Ukraine is not a member of the alliance and Stoltenberg said there were no NATO troops in the country.

“We have no plans to send NATO troops in Ukraine. What we do is defensive,” he said.

The new measures planned by NATO would enable it to deploy capabilities and forces, including the NATO Response Force, to eastern European countries.

NATO is planning to create battle group structures like it already has in Baltic states for the countries on its eastern flank, Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said, adding the move would include Slovakia.

“The unit will be made from countries that are geographically close to us. It will be about several hundred soldiers which will come with equipment that we don’t have and which will significantly increase our ability to defend our country,” Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said.

NATO said earlier in a statement that it had decided “to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence across the alliance”, but its measures were “preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”

“This is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion,” Stoltenberg said. “Russia’s unjustified, unprovoked attack on Ukraine is putting countless innocent lives at risk with air and missile attacks.”