NATO secretary general tells Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine

Russia has repeatedly denied its military forces are inside Ukraine to help bolster pro-Russian separatists.
By JC Finley  |  Nov. 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM
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BRUSSELS, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- "Russia is still destabilizing Ukraine," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a meeting with European Union defense ministers on Tuesday.

"We see the movement of troops, of equipment, of tanks, of artillery, and also advanced air defense systems, and this is in violation of the cease-fire agreements," said Stoltenberg.

Russia has repeatedly denied its military forces are inside Ukraine to help bolster pro-Russian separatists.

At an emergency U.N. Security Council session Nov. 12 on Russia military presence in Ukraine, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, Assistant Secretary-General ad interim for U.N. Political Affairs, reported that the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine is under "continuous and serious strain."

According to the Minsk Protocol, all parties to the Ukraine conflict agreed on Sept. 5 to deescalate the crisis through the institution of an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of illegal armed groups, mercenaries and military equipment -- two stipulations that have largely been ignored.

"We call on Russia to pull back its forces from Eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk Agreements," Stoltenberg said, adding "Both the EU and NATO strongly want a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the Minsk Protocol during a meeting Tuesday with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"The Minsk peace deals are probably the only acts which are supported by all parties without exclusion -- by Ukrainian conflicting parties, Russia, Belarus, the European Union and the United States. Therefore," Lavrov said, noting, "the main task is to create conditions for the Minsk peace process to resume."

Lavrov cited cuts to socioeconomic processes and suspension of banking services in eastern Ukraine as conditions of concern. There was no indication, however, that Lavrov acknowledged western concern about Russian forces and military equipment inside Ukraine.

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