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Updated: December 19, 2009 02:35 IST

After Hitler, it’s the NATO

Vladimir Radyuhin
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A man crosses the frozen Moskva river past small tents used by fishermen, on the outskirts of Moscow. File photo: AP
AP A man crosses the frozen Moskva river past small tents used by fishermen, on the outskirts of Moscow. File photo: AP

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen became prisoner of Russia’s Father Frost as his plane froze stiff on the Moscow tarmac on Thursday.

The NATO Secretary-General had to return to the hotel for another night in Moscow when the Belgian Air Force plane that brought him to Moscow two days earlier failed to start engines in the severe cold that descended on Moscow.

“Our General Frost decided not to let the NATO chief out,” Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin joked after the failed farewell ceremony at the airport.

This is not the Western militaries’ first brush with the ferocious Russian winter. Frosts decimated Napoleon’s armies in 1812 and wrecked Hitler’s blitzkrieg in 1941.

Hours before his aborted departure Mr. Rasmussen told a press conference in frost-gripped Moscow: “NATO will never attack Russia. Never.”

Mr. Rasmussen had come to Russia to unfreeze relations that turned to ice after Russia thumped NATO ally Georgia in a five-day war last year.

The NATO chief was finally able to fly back to Brussels on Friday as frosts eased from -25 to -15°Centigrade.

Moscow’s temperature plunged to a four-year low this week, killing at least two people, freezing cash machines and pushing electricity consumption to an all-time record.

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