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Russia’s war in Ukraine discussed ‘behind closed doors’ at CSTO summit in Moscow
The leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) held a summit in Moscow on Monday, May 16. The meeting, which took place in the Kremlin, was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, and Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko. CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas was also present.
The summit was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty (also known as the Tashkent Pact) and the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Only Putin and Lukashenko mentioned Ukraine in their opening remarks. The Russian president repeated unfounded claims about neo-Nazism being “on the rise” in Ukraine, while again alleging that the country is developing biological weapons (Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have repeatedly refuted these allegations). In turn, Alexander Lukashenko falsely claimed that the West was attempting to “dismember” Ukraine and urged stronger cooperation between CSTO member states. “I’m convinced that if we had immediately acted as a united front, there wouldn’t have been these ‘hellish,’ as they say, sanctions,” Lukashenko said.
Putin also promised that the CSTO leaders would discuss Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine — the Kremlin’s euphemism for the full-scale invasion launched on February 24 — “behind closed doors.” CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas later told journalists that Putin spoke about it “in great detail.” Zas didn’t offer any further information about what was said.
The prospect of sending CSTO troops into Ukraine was not raised during the summit, Zas also told reporters. “The issue of any participation or involvement of the CSTO in this special military operation was not raised or discussed,” the CSTO secretary general assured. Kazakhstan’s authorities have repeatedly stated that CSTO forces will not be sent into Ukraine.
A statement issued by the CSTO leaders following the summit did not explicitly mention Ukraine or Russia’s “special operation.” Among other things, the statement says that “the situation in Afghanistan and on other external borders of CSTO member states causes concern.” The CSTO countries also promised to oppose “any attempts to glorify Nazism and spread neo-Nazism,” and confirmed their “readiness to establish practical cooperation” with NATO.
Also at the summit, Putin said that Russia has “no problems” with Finland and Sweden moving to join NATO. “There is no direct threat to Russia in connection with NATO’s expansion to these countries. But the expansion of its military infrastructure to these territories will certainly evoke a response on our part,” Putin said in his opening remarks. “We will see what it will be like based on the threats that are created for us. But generally speaking, problems are being created from nothing. So, we will respond to it in a fitting manner.”
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also commented on Sweden and Finland’s impending NATO accession on Monday.
“We have no territorial disputes with either Finland or Sweden. Whereas Ukraine could potentially become a NATO member, and then Russia would have a territorial dispute with a state that’s part of the alliance, which carries a huge, huge risk for the entire continent,” Peskov said.
Sweden and Finland officially announced plans to apply for NATO membership on Sunday, May 15. The two countries are expected to submit their applications as early as May 17. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that the alliance would try to expedite the accession process for Sweden and Finland “as much as possible.” In the meantime, NATO is mulling “ways to provide security assurances” to the two prospective members — including by increasing its presence in the Baltic region, Stoltenberg added.
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