BRUSSELS, Belgium (NBC) – More than 50 countries gathered on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels Wednesday to discuss bolstering Ukraine’s air defense capabilities two days after Russian missiles rained on Kyiv and other cities across the country.
The gathering in Brussels is the first big NATO meeting since Russia annexed four occupied Ukrainian regions, began a partial mobilization and issued veiled nuclear threats—moves the Western alliance has classified as a clear escalation of the war that started with Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine eight months ago.
Two days after Russian air missile strikes killed 19 people in Ukraine and knocked out power supplies across the country, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the attack “deepened the determination of the Ukrainian people and further united countries of goodwill from every region on earth.”
On Tuesday, Ukraine received the first of four IRIS-T SLM air defense systems that Germany had promised to supply, German officials confirmed before the meeting.
NATO defense ministers will first meet with partners of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a body established on the initiative of the United States to keep up arms supplies to Kyiv.
Defense ministers from NATO candidates Sweden and Finland also joined the meeting, three months after the two Scandinavian countries applied for NATO membership in response to the February 24 invasion.
Moscow, which calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to eliminate dangerous nationalists and protect Russian speakers, has accused the West of escalating the conflict by supporting Kyiv.
Ukraine accuses Russia of an unprovoked imperialist land-grab, three decades after the Moscow-led Soviet Union broke up.
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