Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed Thursday that it is up to Ukraine to decide when to come to the negotiating table, following controversial remarks made by the director of his office earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Stian Jenssen, director of the Private Office of the NATO Secretary General, said during an event in Norway that ceding territory to Russia could be a way for Ukraine to achieve peace and join the alliance, according to Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang. 

That sparked outrage among Ukrainian officials, including the adviser to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podolyak, who called the remarks “ridiculous,” saying such a move would only encourage Moscow’s “appalling indulgences.” 

Speaking during a conference in Arendal, Norway, on Thursday, Stoltenberg maintained that if NATO allies want peace, “military support for Ukraine is the solution,” according to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK. 

“What is important is that it is the Ukrainians themselves who must decide when they are willing to sit down at the negotiating table,” Stoltenberg said, according to NRK. 

Tension in the Baltics: In his remarks Thursday, Stoltenberg also issued a warning that “great powers” such as Russia are not entitled to hold “spheres of interest,” according to NRK.

“Small countries like Latvia and Lithuania cannot accept that (just) because they are small neighboring countries, then Russia shall rule over them,” the NATO chief said.

Lithuania announced Wednesday that it would temporarily suspend operations at two checkpoints along its border with Belarus due to concerns about the presence of Wagner private military forces in the country.

Wagner fighters are stationed in Belarus — a close ally of Russia — in the wake of their short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin. Their presence has raised tensions on NATO’s eastern flank.

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