NATO vows sup­port for Ukraine against Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sive ac­tions

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg pledged sup­port for Ukraine dur­ing a visit to Kiev yes­ter­day, as the ex-Soviet repub­lic bat­tles a bloody in­sur­gency by pro-Rus­sian separatists in the east. More than 10,000 peo­ple have been killed since a Rus­sian-backed re­bel­lion against the pro-EU gov­ern­ment in Kiev erupted in April 2014. Ukraine and the West ac­cuse Moscow of smug­gling weapons and troops across the por­ous bor­der in sup­port of the separatists, a charge has re­peat­edly de­nied.

“Rus­sia has main­tained its ag­gres­sive ac­tions against Ukraine, but NATO and NATO al­lies stand by Ukraine and stand on your side,” Stoltenberg said at the NATO-Ukraine Com­mis­sion ses­sion in Kiev. “Rus­sia must with­draw its thou­sands of sol­diers from Ukraine and stop sup­port­ing the mil­i­tants,” he added dur­ing a press con­fer­ence with Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko. The con­flict in eastern Ukraine and Rus­sia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 have driven ties be­tween Moscow and the West to their low­est point since the Cold War.

“We are also here to demon­strate NATO’s sol­i­dar­ity with Ukraine and our firm sup­port for the sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of your coun­try,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO al­lies do not and will not recog­nise Rus­sia’s il­le­gal and il­le­git­i­mate annexation of Crimea.” The NATO chief’s trip came a day af­ter US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son made a maiden visit to Kiev and urged Moscow to take the “first step” to ease the con­flict in Ukraine’s east. The US and the European Union have im­posed sanc­tions on Rus­sia, al­though Moscow has de­nied back­ing the rebels.

Path to mem­ber­ship?

Ukraine sees NATO ac­ces­sion as a way to bol­ster its de­fenses against for­mer mas­ter Moscow. In June, Ukraine’s par­lia­ment voted to back at­tempts by the na­tion to seek mem­ber­ship of the 29-mem­ber bloc. It ap­proved le­gal amend­ments en­shrin­ing mem­ber­ship in NATO as a for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity. But the Krem­lin has long been an­gered by NATO ex­pan­sion into what Moscow views as its sphere of in­flu­ence in the for­mer Soviet re­gion. “It (Ukraine’s rap­proche­ment with NATO) will not con­trib­ute to the strength­en­ing of sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity on the European con­ti­nent,” Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

More­over, Kiev has yet to of­fi­cially ap­ply to start the lengthy and po­lit­i­cally chal­leng­ing process of join­ing the US-led al­liance. Poroshenko ex­plained that em­bat­tled Ukraine was ea­ger to join the bloc, but painful po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­forms need to be im­ple­mented be­fore the coun­try was ready to lay out its claims on mem­ber­ship. “We are de­ter­mined to re­forms... to meet the mem­ber­ship cri­te­ria,” Poroshenko told jour­nal­ists. “NATO will con­tinue to sup­port Ukraine on the path to­wards closer re­la­tion­ships with NATO,” Stoltenberg added.—AFP

—AFP

KIEV: NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg, cen­ter, de­liv­ers a speech to mem­bers of the Ukrainian Par­lia­ment in Kiev yes­ter­day. KIEV:

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