BRUSSELS(AFP) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the alliance will be deploying its rapid response force for the first time in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The situation remains fluid. What we’ve witnessed is that Ukrainian troops are fighting heroically and are capable of inflicting harm on Russian forces invading their nation.” Stoltenberg made the comment following a video session with NATO leaders.

“Ukraine is being invaded as a whole. They are marching towards Kyiv, ostensibly with the intention of replacing Ukraine’s government.”

Stoltenberg warned that Russia’s assertiveness has created a “new normal,” putting Europe’s security at risk beyond non-NATO member Ukraine.

“We have already bolstered our deterrence and defence,” Stoltenberg said.

“Allies activated their defence plans yesterday, and as a result, NATO Response Force (NRF) components are being deployed on land, at sea, and in the air to reinforce our posture and respond quickly to any emergency.”

The action is the latest recent by NATO to boost its defences, following the deployment of thousands of soldiers to eastern members by allies headed by the US as the Kremlin pushed on Ukraine.

“We have over 100 planes on high alert in over 30 different locations,” Stoltenberg said, “as well as over 120 ships from the far north to the Mediterranean.”

“This is to maintain peace and prevent the conflict in Ukraine from spreading to any NATO partner.”

He refused to say where the response forces would be sent, saying the decision would be decided by NATO’s top military commander.

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