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Nato and Russia to discuss Ukraine

BBC News BBC News 8/04/2016
Children visit a Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jet during a Russian naval open day near Simferopol, Crimea, 4 March: Children visited the cockpit of a Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jet during a Russian naval open day in Crimea last month © AFP Children visited the cockpit of a Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jet during a Russian naval open day in Crimea last month

Nato and Russia are to meet to discuss the Ukraine crisis, which has severely strained relations since Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The Nato-Russia Council will convene in the next two weeks to discuss the peace process in eastern Ukraine, as well as the situation in Afghanistan.

But Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that it was not a "return to business as usual".

Nato has moved to bolster its forces in its east European member states.

The forthcoming meeting, Mr Stoltenberg said, was "the continuation of our political dialogue as agreed by Nato heads of state and government".

"At the same time, there will be no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law," he added.

The Nato-Russia Council was established in 2002. Meetings at ambassadorial level have not taken place since June 2014, although there has been other political dialogue.

Armoured brigades

Nato announced last month that an extra armoured brigade would be deployed in eastern Europe, meaning a total of three will be there on a continuous basis.

Gen Philip Breedlove, the senior US commander in Europe, talked of "reassuring... Nato allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in eastern Europe and elsewhere".

Russia is widely accused of covertly backing the rebels who now control much of eastern Ukraine after a bloody armed conflict with the government in Kiev.

Late last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin described Nato's expansion as a threat to his country.

A national security paper was updated to say that Nato's recent build-up of military potential around Russia's borders constituted "violations of norms of international law".

Tension between Nato and Russia, which both possess huge nuclear arsenals dating back to the Cold War, has clouded international relations since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine following the peninsula's disputed referendum on self-determination.

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