Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the country regarding Ukraine in Moscow, Russia, on February 21. Putin on Saturday called sanctions placed against the country a “declaration of war” and warned that a no-fly zone over Ukraine would make NATO “participants” in it. File Photo by Aleksey Nikolskyi/EPA-EFE/Kremlin
March 5 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday called sanctions placed against the country a "declaration of war" and warned that a no-fly zone over Ukraine would make NATO "participants" in it.
Putin's comments, made in a meeting with employees of Russian national airlines, come hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called NATO "weak" after the alliance rejected a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
"We will immediately consider them as participants in a military conflict, and it doesn't matter members of which organizations they are," Putin said, according to CNN.
"It is impossible to do it, on the very territory of Ukraine, it's possible only from the territory of some neighboring states. But any movement in this direction will be considered by us as participation in an armed conflict."
Putin also clearly warned that Ukraine could lose its sovereignty because of the harsh economic sanctions levied against Russia by countries around the world, The Washington Post reported.
"These sanctions that are being imposed are like the declaration of war," he said.
The Russian president also claimed that Ukraine was using civilians as a "human shield" despite verified videos and reports showing Russian troops targeting residential buildings.
Zelensky called for the no-fly zone in a televised address as Russian forces pressed on toward the second-largest nuclear facility in Ukraine on Friday after taking control of the largest nuclear power plant in the country earlier in the day.
"We believe that NATO countries have created a narrative that closing the skies over Ukraine would provoke Russia's direct aggression against NATO," Zelensky said in the televised address.
"This is the self-hypnosis of those who are weak, underconfident internally, despite the fact they possess weapons many times more powerful than ours."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press briefing in Brussels on Friday that the United States would not create a no-fly zone because enforcing it could provoke further war in Europe.
"The only way to actually implement something like a no-fly zone is to send NATO planes into Ukrainian airspace and to shoot down Russian planes, and that could lead to a full-fledged war in Europe," Blinken said.
"President [Joe] Biden has been clear that we are not going to get into a war with Russia. But we are going to tremendous lengths with allies and partners to provide the Ukrainians with the means to effectively defend themselves."
European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo