NATO has 'significantly' strengthened presence in eastern part of alliance: Stoltenberg

‘We will protect, defend every inch of all allied territory,’ says NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO has 'significantly' strengthened presence in eastern part of alliance: Stoltenberg

NATO has "significantly" strengthened its presence in the eastern part of its alliance “to make sure there is no room for miscalculation in Moscow,” the alliance chief said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Latvian President Egils Levits following their meeting, Jens Stoltenberg said: "We have 130 jets at high alert, over 200 ships from the high north to the Mediterranean, and thousands of additional troops in the region."

"We will protect and defend every inch of Latvia and we will protect and defend every inch of all allied territory," Stoltenberg added.

He stressed that every country has a responsibility to prevent the war from escalating and spreading beyond Ukraine.

Also, touching upon the evacuation of civilians from Ukraine, the NATO chief said that this is Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since the World War II.

There are “very credible” reports of civilians coming under fire as they tried to evacuate, Stoltenberg said, adding: "Targeting civilians is a war crime. And it's totally unacceptable. We need real humanitarian corridors that are fully respected."

"We made clear that President (Vladimir) Putin would pay a high price for renewed aggression against Ukraine. And this price is exactly what he's paying now," he added.

Russia's war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial sanctions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia. The West has also imposed biting export restrictions on key technologies that are now prohibited from being sent to Russia.

At least 474 civilians have been killed and 861 others injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, according to the UN, while also cautioning that conditions on the ground make it difficult to verify the true number.

Some 2 million people have also fled to neighboring countries, the UN refugee agency said.