NEWS: UKRAINE IN WAR Russian President Vladimir Putin says Western sanctions against his country following the invasion of Ukraine are a kind of declaration of war.

Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has warned West­ern pow­ers against impos­ing a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, say­ing such an attempt by anoth­er coun­try would be seen as a step in the mil­i­tary con­flict between Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian forces.

“Any move in this direc­tion will be con­sid­ered by us as par­tic­i­pa­tion in an armed con­flict by this coun­try,” Putin said at a meet­ing with Aeroflot employ­ees out­side Moscow on Saturday.

He added that the impo­si­tion of a no-fly zone would have “colos­sal and cat­a­stroph­ic con­se­quences not only for Europe but also for the whole world.”

Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy said the absence of a no-fly zone gives Rus­sia a “green light” to con­tin­ue bomb­ing Ukrain­ian cities. He blast­ed NATO for refus­ing to impose a no-fly zone on his coun­try, warn­ing that “all the peo­ple who die from this day on will also die because of you.”

NATO has said that a no-fly zone, which would pre­vent all unau­tho­rized air­craft from fly­ing over Ukraine, could pro­voke an all-out war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia.

But as the U.S. and oth­er NATO mem­bers send weapons to Kiev and more than 1.2 mil­lion refugees spread across the con­ti­nent, the con­flict is already spread­ing to coun­tries far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Putin has reit­er­at­ed that his goals in Ukraine are to defend Russ­ian-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties through the “demil­i­ta­riza­tion and denaz­i­fi­ca­tion” of the coun­try so that it becomes neutral.

Ukraine and West­ern coun­tries have dis­missed this as a base­less pre­text for the inva­sion it launched on Feb­ru­ary 24 and have imposed a wide range of sanc­tions aimed at iso­lat­ing Moscow.

“These sanc­tions that are being imposed are akin to a dec­la­ra­tion of war, but thank God it has­n’t come to that,” Putin said, address­ing a group of female flight atten­dants at the Aeroflot train­ing center.

The pres­i­dent also said that no con­scripts were involved in what the Krem­lin calls a “spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion,” which he said was con­duct­ed only by pro­fes­sion­al soldiers.

“There is not a con­script and we do not expect there to be,” Putin said. “Our army will per­form all tasks. I have no doubt about it at all. Every­thing will be planned.

Putin also dis­missed rumors that some sort of mar­tial law or emer­gency sit­u­a­tion might be declared in Russia.

“Mar­tial law should be intro­duced only in cas­es where there is exter­nal aggres­sion… we are not expe­ri­enc­ing that at the moment and I hope we will not,” Putin said.

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