NATO pledges more support for Ukraine as Russia bombs Ukrainian mall

NATO pledges more support for Ukraine as Russia bombs Ukrainian mall
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Credit: Belga

NATO leaders meet Tuesday evening in Madrid to strategise on military goals in the face of an aggressive Russia.

The military alliance wants to scale up its deployable troops from 40,000 to 300,000, announced NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference on Monday.

Naming Russia as the Allies' greatest threat, Stoltenberg outlined measures that will constitute "the biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defence since the Cold War."

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Stoltenberg stressed the need to strengthen NATO's eastern border, as the Baltic States and Poland are demanding more troops stationed at the Russian border or troops.

In addition, Stoltenberg praised NATO members for turbo charging their defense spending. Nine members meet or exceed the 2% of GDP for military spending that NATO sets for members, while 19 others have clear plans to reach it by 2024.

Belgium is an exception to the trend, as the government plans to reach 1.54% by 2030 and possibly 2% by 2035.

In Ukraine

The NATO meeting comes after two Russian missile strikes killed at least 16 people in a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city Krememcheuk on Monday.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy called the attack "one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history" and stressed that many of the over 1,000 shoppers inside the mall were able to escape.

Dmytro Lunin, Governor of the central Poltava region, said on Telegram that more bodies would probably be discovered while rescue workers looked through the smouldering debris.

"It’s an act of terrorism against civilians," he said, suggesting there weren't any nearby military targets that Russia could have aimed for .

The missiles caused a fire, with huge clouds of smoke billowing into the sky, in footage released by Ukraine's Defence Ministry.

The attack comes after Russia intensified its assault on the final Ukrainian bastion in the eastern Luhansk province. Russian forces seem to conduct attacks into the country after forcing Ukrainian forces out of the neighbouring city of Severodonetsk recently.

Meanwhile, Western leaders vow to continue their support for Kyiv. NATO will agree to keep delivering military support to Ukraine, such as secure communication and anti-drone systems, when NATO meets on Tuesday, according to Stoltenberg.

Zelenskyy is expected to attend the NATO summit via video conference.

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