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NATO Concerned Over E. Ukraine Cease-fire Violations


A Ukrainian military convoy moves on the road near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, Oct. 5, 2014.
A Ukrainian military convoy moves on the road near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, Oct. 5, 2014.

The new head of NATO said the Western military alliance is concerned about the large number of violations of the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, which he indirectly blamed on pro-Russian separatists.

Speaking in Poland Monday on his first foreign trip as NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg said he wanted "to commend the government in Ukraine for doing a lot, to both (respect) the cease-fire and also to contribute to a political solution" to it conflict with the separatists.

The former Norwegian prime minister said it is important Russia uses "all of its influence" to ensure the separatists also respect the cease-fire.

Last week saw heavy fighting between government and separatist forces in Donetsk, particularly around the city's airport, which the rebels have been trying to recapture. Each side blamed the other for shelling that killed and wounded civilians in various parts of the city.

At least one person was killed in Donetsk on Monday when a residential area was shelled.

Border concerns

Meanwhile, in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.

Poroshenko stressed the need to tighten control of his country's border with Russia. Nuland praised him for his efforts to reach the cease-fire.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Monday accused Russia of failing to observe the truce agreement and memorandum on implementing the cease-fire signed last month.

Yatsenyuk charged that Russia continues to support the separatists, adding that both Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are killed daily by Russian-controlled "terrorists."

He also said Ukraine has received two drones to help monitor the cease-fire.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for his part, told journalists in Moscow that it is "absolutely hopeless" to blame what is happening in eastern Ukraine on the separatists while supporting all of the Ukrainian government's "zigzags."

Reassuring Poland

In Poland, Stoltenberg, who met Monday with President Bronislaw Komorowski and other top Polish officials, sought to reassure Poland and other member states bordering Russia who are nervous about Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine earlier this year and support for the pro-Russian separatists.

NATO, he said, will "maintain a continuous presence and activity in the eastern part of our alliance."

The alliance plans to create a rapid-reaction force for eastern Europe consisting of several thousand combat troops.

At the same time, Stoltenberg told the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that "there is no contradiction between a strong NATO and building constructive relations with Russia," the Reuters news agency reported Monday.

German-French proposal

Also on Monday, Germany and France said they will present a new proposal shortly under which their soldiers could participate in the monitoring of the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, a German foreign ministry spokesman said.

The spokesman, Martin Schaefer, said the plan would be presented in the “next hours or days” but added, “One thing is clear. Before German and French soldiers or others are sent to participate in the civil monitoring mission of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in Ukraine there are some political and legal questions that must be resolved.”

Schaefer said one of these questions was the role of the Bundestag lower house of parliament in approving such a mission.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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