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Ukraine conflict: NATO Response Force deploying as Russia meets resistance

NATO leaders have activated their emergency military response force as a defensive measure for the first time. The move comes as Russian troops continue their push into the Ukrainian capital city and refugees are fleeing into neighbouring countries.

On day two of the Russian invasion, NATO held a virtual summit of allied leaders and announced that elements of the NATO Response Force (NRF) and its Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) would deploy to alliance's eastern flank.

“We call on Russia to immediately cease its military assault, to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and to turn back from the path of aggression it has chosen,” a 25 February summit statement said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that this deployment involves thousands of troops, in addition to aircraft and ships from Standing NATO Maritime Groups. The VJTF is currently led by France, with “a strong German component”, and the NRF draws on United States and NATO's European allied military forces that can be ready for deployment within days, Stoltenberg said. However, he did not disclose how many troops would deploy or where.

Washington, meanwhile, announced on 24 February that it would deploy 7,000 US military service members to Germany. This group includes the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart in Georgia, along with additional associated capabilities and “enablers” including transport and artillery.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States is working “closely” with NATO to “fully understand” the requirements before it determines how many US troops will support the NRF activation.

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