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Monday, May 23, 2022

Norway closes air space, sending aid

Norway has decided to follow other European countries in closing its air space to Russian flights. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre also has reconsidered and may send “military equipment” to Ukraine after all.

In addition to closing its air space to Russian flights and planning to send military equipment to Ukraine, Norway also is sending more soldiers to Lithuania. That’s part of a move to “enhance” NATO’s presence in Europe, especially along borders to Russia. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Even Karlsen Sætre

Both Støre and Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt have repeatedly said Norway would not send arms to Ukraine, since it’s not a member of NATO. During the weekend, though, they changed their minds in another effort to support Ukraine as it struggles to fend off a full Russian invasion that has shocked the world.

Now Støre says he’s open to sending what he calls “military equipment,” after Germany surprised everyone by approving the export of weapons to Ukraine. Germany, ever mindful of its own aggressive past under the tyrant and Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, has worked hard over the years to steer Russia’s authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin away from a similar path, and been reluctant to directly defy him.

Now, however, Putin’s order to invade Ukraine has changed everything, with government leaders all over the continent and abroad calling the invasion an attack on Europe as well, and on democratic principles.

The German government thus authorized sending weapons and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, clearing the way for the Netherlands to send German-produced weapons. That prompted Norway to change its mind, too, despite its law similar to Germany’s that weapons and ammunition should not be sent to areas at war or where war was threatened.

With Ukraine now under seige by Russia and fighting hard for its right to exist, Støre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “this is a foreign policy situation that’s so special that must look at portion of the law with new eyes.”

Støre stressed Norway wouldn’t send weapons but other “military equipment” that was not specified. He thus joins not only Germany and the Netherlands but also the US, England and 25 other countries in sending needed equipment and supplies to Ukraine. British Defense Minister Ben Wallace organized an online donor conference Friday night, at which NATO was represented.

Poland, which borders Ukraine, has started sending ammunition, while Estonia and Latvia are sending trucks filled with fuel and medical equipment to the border for Ukrainian forces. The Czech Republic is sending weapons and ammunition, while Slovakia (which also borders on Ukraine) is sending ammunition, diesel and parafin, according to newssite Politico. News bureau AFP reported that France is also sending military equipment.

Air space closing
Norway also followed other European countries Sunday afternoon in closing its air space to Russian flights. Foreign Minister Huitfeldt said Norway had “consulted our Nordic neighbours” Sweden and Finland and they’ll all close air space to Russian aircraft at the same time. Wera Helstrøm of the foreign ministry said the exact time would be coordinated later in the day.

Great Britain was the first to refuse landing to an Aeroflot flight from Moscow late last week. Now most all countries in Europe have closed their air space to Russian flights as has Canada.

Norway was slow to join in, with Huitfeldt under pressure from the opposition leader in Parliament and former prime minister Erna Solberg and her former foreign minister Ine Eriksen Søreide. The consequences can be dramatic for Russia, which can become isolated. Russians won’t be able to travel and access to foreign markets will be restricted.

By Sunday evening, Russian aircraft of all types was banned from flying over the entire EU. “This is all about isolating Russia and showing that they stand alone in this war,” reported NRK correspondent Simen Ekern in Brussels. NRK reported that Ukraine and Russia were meeting for possible cease-fire talks Sunday evening.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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