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NATO, Ukraine Condemn Russian Military Build-up in Crimea

  • VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) waits for the start of a roundtable meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at NATO headquarters in Brussels Dec. 2, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) waits for the start of a roundtable meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at NATO headquarters in Brussels Dec. 2, 2014.

Foreign ministers from 28 NATO countries and Ukraine on Tuesday condemned a Russian military build-up in Crimea, and Moscow’s “deliberate destabilization” of eastern Ukraine.

“We condemn Russia's military build-up in Crimea,'' the ministers said in a statement following a meeting in Brussels of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. “We are also concerned with Russia's stated plans for further military build-up on the Black Sea.''

A convoy of Russian trucks, which Moscow claims is carrrying humanitarian aid, is suspected by Kyiv to be providing material support for rebels. Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 30, 2014.

A convoy of Russian trucks, which Moscow claims is carrrying humanitarian aid, is suspected by Kyiv to be providing material support for rebels. Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 30, 2014.

The ministers condemned Moscow’s “continued and deliberate destabilization of eastern Ukraine in breach of international law, including the provision of tanks, advanced air defense systems and other heavy weapons to the separatists.''

They also called on Russia “to reverse its illegal and illegitimate self-declared ‘annexation’ of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognize.”

“Russia’s actions undermine the security of Ukraine and have serious implications for the stability and security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area,” the statement says.

Kyiv and the West have accused Russia of having instigated and sustained the uprising in eastern Ukraine following the toppling of a pro-Russian government in the country after months of popular protests. Moscow denies the charge.

Talk of more sanctions

Russia may soon face more sanctions over its role in the Ukraine conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss possible new measures in talks with European allies this week, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday.

“There are continuing conversations with the EU about continuing to expand sanctions,'' said the official, who was accompanying Kerry to the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

People walk past a currency exchange rate display in central Moscow, Dec. 1, 2014.

People walk past a currency exchange rate display in central Moscow, Dec. 1, 2014.

The U.S. and the 28-member European Union have already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and what they see as support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The measures include sanctions against Russia’s financial, defense and energy sectors as well as visa bans and asset freezes imposed on officials seen as linked to the Ukraine crisis.

The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a number of allies had joined the U.S. in providing “relatively high-end non-lethal supplies to Ukraine” and some others were expected to make new offers at the NATO meeting.

New government

Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved a new government, putting an end to weeks of political wrangling following a snap election in October that brought mostly pro-Western parties into the country’s legislature.

Ukraine’s previous parliament had been elected under Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych who was deposed in February after months of massive anti-government protests and replaced in May by pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who has served as prime minister since February, will also head the new Cabinet, which has pledged to enact drastic political and economic reforms.

U.S. national Natalie Jaresko, who will serve as finance minister in Ukraine's new government, stands before MPs during a session of parliament in Kyiv Dec. 2, 2014.

U.S. national Natalie Jaresko, who will serve as finance minister in Ukraine's new government, stands before MPs during a session of parliament in Kyiv Dec. 2, 2014.

The new Cabinet includes hand-picked technocrats from abroad, among them U.S. citizen Natalie Jaresko, who will serve as finance minister. Jaresko, who is of Ukrainian descent, has held various positions at the U.S. State Department before co-founding and heading a private equity firm in Kyiv, where she has lived for the past two decades.

Also serving in the new government will be Alexander Kvitashvili, from Georgia, and Aivaras Abromavicius, from Lithuania.

All three were granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Poroshenko earlier Tuesday.

Luhansk truce

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Ukraine's military and pro-Russian separatist forces in the country’s Luhansk region have agreed "in principle" to a new cease-fire, effective December 5.

The OSCE said Monday the truce would include the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the area starting December 6.

The warring sides in eastern Ukraine had signed a comprehensive cease-fire agreement September 5 in Minsk, Belarus, but there have been near daily violations of the deal since.

More than 4,300 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the separatist rebellions began in April.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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