Nato using Ukraine crisis to boost appeal, says Russia

Tuesday May 13 2014

PHOTO |  AFP NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a joint press conference after a Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 1, 2014. NATO on May 13, 2014 said it could not confirm the withdrawal of Russian troops from near the flashpoint Ukrainian border as Russia heaped even more pressure on a teetering Ukraine economy with a painful gas price hike.

PHOTO | AFP NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a joint press conference after a Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 1, 2014. NATO on May 13, 2014 said it could not confirm the withdrawal of Russian troops from near the flashpoint Ukrainian border as Russia heaped even more pressure on a teetering Ukraine economy with a painful gas price hike.  AFP

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MOSCOW

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused Nato of using the crisis in Ukraine to boost its appeal to members and justify its existence by rallying them against an imaginary threat.

Russia and the West are locked in a Cold War-style stand-off over Ukraine and Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has told Moscow to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border or face consequences if they intervene.

Nato believes Russia has deployed 40,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, although Moscow says they have been pulled back. The crisis has deepened following a move by two regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, to declare their independence following a referendum on Sunday.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern autonomous republic of Crimea after a disputed referendum in March.

CONSTATNT ACCUSATIONS
The Russian ministry said Rasmussen’s remarks were confrontational and that in recent months he had not offered “any constructive agenda” for Ukraine, adding that it was adding to instability in the region.

“The constant accusations against us by the secretary general convince us that the alliance is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary external threat to Nato members and to strengthen demand for the alliance ... in the 21st century,” it said.

Nato has suspended all practical military and civilian cooperation with Russia, although it said political dialogue could continue at ambassador level or higher, since Russia incorporated Ukraine’s Crimea region last month.

Meanwhile, six Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush between the insurgent bastions of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk in the east of the country today, the defence ministry said.