Slovak PM says some Western states consider bilateral deals to send troops to Ukraine

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Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico looks on during a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Germany, January 24, 2024. REUTERS/Nadja Wohlleben Purchase Licensing Rights

Feb 26 (Reuters) – Several NATO and European Union members are considering sending soldiers to Ukraine on a bilateral basis, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Monday.

Fico, who has long opposed military supplies to Ukraine and has taken a position seen by some critics as pro-Russian, offered no details and other European leaders did not immediately comment on his remarks.

He was speaking ahead of a meeting of European leaders in Paris that he is due to attend later on Monday.

„I will limit myself to say that these theses (in preparation for the Paris meeting) imply a number of NATO and EU member states are considering that they will send their troops to Ukraine on a bilateral basis,“ Fico told a televised briefing following a meeting of Slovakia’s security council.

„I cannot say for what purpose and what they should be doing there,“ he said, adding that Slovakia, a member of the EU and NATO, would not be sending soldiers to Ukraine.

Members of NATO have supplied billions of dollars in arms and ammunition to Kyiv and are training Ukrainian forces. But NATO leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden have underlined that the Western military alliance wants to avoid a direct conflict with Russia, which could lead to a global war.

„Neither NATO nor NATO allies are party to the conflict,“ NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Feb. 14.

NATO had no immediate comment on Fico’s remarks.

Asked about the comments, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said: „The Czech Republic certainly is not preparing to send any soldiers to Ukraine, nobody has to worry about that.“

Fico said he saw a risk of a large escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, and that more information could not be revealed to the public.

Some 20 European leaders, including Fico, will gather in Paris on Monday to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message of European resolve on Ukraine and counter the Kremlin’s narrative that Russia is bound to win a war now entering its third year, France said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited European leaders to the Elysee Palace for a working meeting announced at short notice because of what his advisers say is an escalation in Russian aggression over the past few weeks.

Fico said calling the meeting showed the West’s strategy on Ukraine had failed. He said he was going to take part in a constructive spirit although the material for discussions sent „shivers down his spine“.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet in Prague and Andrew Gray in Brussels, Editing by Gareth Jones and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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