Russia Criticised At NATO Talks

_77374020_023743381-1Western leaders have criticised Russia for its “destabilising” influence on the crisis in Ukraine, at the start of a Nato summit in Wales. Nato and the UK warned that pressure on Russia would be increased if it did not change course in eastern Ukraine.

Prior to the summit, Ukraine’s president briefed US and EU leaders on earlier discussions on a ceasefire plan with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some 2,600 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels.

The West says it has evidence that Mr Putin is supporting the separatists with training and arms, and has sent Russian troops across the border. Russia denies the accusation.

The conflict has forced more than a million people from their homes in eastern Ukraine, according to United Nations estimates.

Ukrainian government forces have recently suffered several losses, after rebels launched offensives in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea.

Reports are emerging that the separatists have begun shelling the outer defences of Mariupol.

At least two military vehicles were seen on fire in the area, and eyewitnesses spoke of gunfire.

In a separate development, Ukrainian President Petro Poro-shenko said “the implementation” of his peace plan – which includes a bilateral ceasefire – could start on Friday.

He said this depended on planned talks in Minsk between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

During the two-days of talks, Nato leaders are also set to discuss the rise of Islamic State (IS), and Afghanistan where Taliban militants launched a deadly attack on a government compound on Thursday.

Writing in the Times newspaper, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama said they would “confront” IS, warning their countries would “not be cowed by barbaric killers”.

Their statement comes following the release of a new IS video showing the killing of US journalist Steven Sotloff, just days after the group beheaded another American reporter, James Foley.

In the latest video, an IS militant is also seen threatening to kill a UK hostage. — BBC

On Thursday, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the summit was taking place in a “dramatically changed security environment”, with Russia “attacking Ukraine”.

“We are still witnessing unfortunately Russian involvement in destabilising the situation in eastern Ukraine,” he told journalists in Newport on Thursday ahead of the summit’s official launch.

Mr Cameron stressed pressure of sanctions was “the right way to tell the Russians that what they are doing is unacceptable”.

Correspondents say the summit is Nato’s most important for decades, as leaders faced the question of whether the alliance is equipped to deal with 21st Century challenges.

The alliance is expected to approve plans to create a rapid response force composed of several thousand troops from member states, able to deploy within 48 hours.

European leaders are also set to discuss a new round of tougher economic measures against Russia.

The challenge from Moscow is two-fold. Russia is, firstly, overturning the post-Cold War security order in Europe set out in the Nato-Russia Founding Act of 1997.

This document, signed in Paris by Nato leaders and then-President Boris Yeltsin, set out to build “a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic Area”.

It contained an explicit requirement to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states. Nato’s view is that Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine is a blatant breach of the principles contained in the Founding Act.

Secondly, Russian willingness to back separatist forces and to nibble away at the territory of countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union has revived fears among Nato members which border Russia, especially Poland and the Baltic republics.

The principal task of this summit is to try to reassure worried Nato members and to send clear signals to Moscow about Nato’s resolve. — BBC


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