NATO Condemns Russian Grab, Starts Air Exercises

NATO officials condemned Russia’s illegal take-over of Ukraine’s Crimea region as Air Force F-16s began exercises in Poland on Tuesday, according to officials. “Crimea’s annexation is illegal and illegitimate and NATO Allies will not recognize it,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a March 18 statement. “I am deeply concerned by reports of the death of one Ukrainian officer” who was killed when Russian forces stormed a Ukrainian military installation, he said. “It is urgent that all sides show restraint and take all possible steps to avoid further escalation.” Air Force F-16s deployed to Lask AB, Poland, also began off-station aerial training on March 18. Eventually, US and Polish F-16s will integrate for training, states a release. Russia recently deployed its own fighter detachment just over the border in neighboring Belarus to counter US F-16s and F-15s sent to Poland and Lithuania.