Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed nationalist politician  Dmitry Rogozin as the country's permanent representative to NATO.

Rogozin is a former member of parliament who made his name championing the rights of ethnic Russians.

He has previously called for Russia to increase its military presence in the Balkans to counter the threat from NATO.

Ties between Russia and the military alliance have been strained by the NATO's expansion into former communist-ruled East European countries and by U.S. plans to station a missile defense shield in Europe.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.