LONDON: President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that Western sanctions on Russia were akin to a declaration of war, and warned that any attempt to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine would have disastrous consequences for the world.
Putin reiterated that his goal was to defend the Russian-speaking community through the “demilitarization and denazification” of the country, thereby neutralizing Russia’s former Soviet neighbors and no longer threatening Russia.
Ukraine and Western countries have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for the invasion he launched on Feb. 24 and have imposed a sweeping range of sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow.
“These sanctions that are being imposed are akin to a declaration of war but thank God it has not come to that,” Putin said, speaking to a group of flight attendants at an Aeroflot training centre near Moscow.
He said any attempt by another power to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine would be considered by Russia to be a step into the military conflict. Such a step he said would have catastrophic consequences for Europe and the world.
The NATO military alliance has rejected demands for a no-fly zone in Kyiv on the grounds that it would escalate the war outside Ukraine into a broader conflict that could pit the United States against Russia.