Putin fury at ‘deplorable’ Von der Leyen as NATO-Russia tensions mount: ‘Perplexed’

Ukrainian MP warns EU 'will be next' if Putin wins war

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Tomorrow, the defence ministers from the 30 NATO states will meet in Brussels for a meeting to discuss Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The meeting comes after Russian missiles hit a large Ukrainian military base around 15 miles from the border with NATO member Poland, which killed 35 people and wounded 134. So far NATO members have supplied Ukraine with weapons and imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia, though the alliance does not want to become directly involved in the conflict.

However as Putin’s army moves westwards across Ukraine, there have been mounting fears of war between Russia and NATO. 

Putin has had tension with the West since first becoming Russia’s President in 1999.

Last year, the Russian coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, was a source of division in Europe before a single dose had even been delivered. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Putin engaged in a war of words in February 2021 after the EU boss appeared to imply that Russians didn’t want the Sputnik jab.

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Speaking at a news conference, Ms von der Leyen denied reports that Russia’s vaccine manufacturer, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, had applied for regulatory approval from the European Medicines Agency.

She then said: “Overall, I must say we still wonder why Russia is offering theoretically millions and millions of doses while not sufficiently progressing in vaccinating their own people.”

The following evening, the Russian Permanent Mission to the EU hit out at the European Commission President, and said they were “perplexed to hear” Ms von der Leyen’s observations. 

He comments were deemed “either an effort to politicise the issue in an unsubstantiated and, indeed, deplorable way, or indicates an inadequate level of awareness of the top-level official.”

The statement continued: “In full compliance with the principles of democracy and humanitarian law, inoculation in Russia is voluntary and to date, all interested citizens are provided with the vaccine without delay and free of charge.

“An extensive network of vaccination centres has been set up and is constantly being improved, including employing modern digitalisation tools.”

The embassy then added that efforts to supply the Russian vaccine to other countries were “in no way linked” to the availability of the vaccine to the Russian people.

Two months later there were further tensions between the EU and Russia over the vaccine.

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Though the European Commission said they didn’t need the Russian jab and the European Medicines Agency was yet to approve it, a number of EU member states were breaking away from the EU’s common strategy and striking their own deals.

After Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and San Marino collectively ordered millions of Sputnik V doses, critics claimed Moscow was using their own vaccine to sow division.

Of course, the West has been on high alert since Russia launched their invasion of neighbouring Ukraine last month. 

Speaking on Monday morning, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that though it is unlikely, it would not be impossible that Russian missiles could target territory belonging to NATO. 

Mr Javid told BBC Radio: “It’s not impossible, but I still think at this stage it’s very unlikely. 

“We’ve made it very clear to the Russians, even before the start of this conflict, even if a single Russian toecap steps into NATO territory, then it will be considered an act of war.”

NATO’s system of collective security means that all 30 independent member states will form a mutual defence in response to an attack by an external party. 

If Russia was to attack the likes of Poland, Latvia or Lithuania, it would be at war with all NATO members.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “NATO’s core task is to protect and defend all allies. There must be no room for miscalculation or misunderstanding. 

“An attack on one will be regarded as an attack on all. This is our collective security guarantee.”

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