Putin ally Patrushev says NATO is helping attacks on Russia from Ukraine

NATO flag flutters next to Presidential Palace in Vilnius

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) -A powerful ally of President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that NATO was basically fighting Russia in Ukraine and that the U.S.-led military alliance had helped organise strikes on sovereign Russian territory.

Putin's 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, according to Russian and U.S. diplomats.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, one of Putin's most powerful allies, said that the 75 years of NATO history since its founding on April 4, 1949 had shown it to be a long term source of "danger, crisis and conflict".

"The North Atlantic Alliance is de-facto a party to the Ukrainian conflict and is actively involved in organising the shelling of Russian territories," Patrushev told the Argumenty I Fakty newspaper.

"Within its framework, collective decisions are being made on new arms supplies with an increase in their technical and long-range capabilities, and NATO instructors in several countries are training mercenaries and saboteurs for their participation in anti-Russian operations."

Ukraine has struck deep into Russian territory over the past year, bombing oil refineries and weapons factories with drones and repeatedly shelling Russian border regions.

Kyiv says it is fighting for its existence in a brutal war which has left swathes of its territory in ruins and thousands dead.

The United States has repeatedly said that it does not support Ukrainian strikes inside Russia.

Putin last month warned the West that a direct conflict between Russia and NATO would mean the planet was one step away from World War Three and said that some NATO military personnel were present already in Ukraine.

'REMOVAL' OF RUSSIA

NATO members portray Russia's invasion of Ukraine as an imperial-style land-grab which shows that post-Soviet Russia is one of the biggest nation-state threats to global stability, alongside China.

Patrushev, one of the most influential hawks in the Kremlin, described NATO as an instrument of the United States which he said wanted to ultimately destroy Russia and steal its vast natural resources.

"The West considered the collapse of the Soviet Union only as one of the stages of the confrontation with Russia," Patrushev said.

"The weakening of our country as an economic and political competitor, and its subsequent removal from the political map of the world through dismemberment, are the long-term strategic goals of Washington, London and the countries of the collective West controlled by them."

NATO, founded with 12 core members in 1949 to provide Western security against the Soviet Union, now has 32 members, enlarging after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

NATO accepted the former Warsaw Pact states of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as members in 1999, and in 2004 it accepted the eastern European states of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004.

Finland joined in 2023 and Sweden in 2024.

The United States and its allies deny that they want to destroy Russia, though they cast Russia as an enemy and Putin as a dictator who is leading Russia to strategic ruin.

NATO, Patrushev said, was "systematically boosting its military potential along our borders from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea" and holding manoeuvres close to Russian territory.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Stephen Coates and Philippa Fletcher)