Russia vows to respond to NATO presence near border

Andalou Agency | 10 March 2015

‘The expanding military presence near the Russian border is not contributing to the restoration of trust with NATO,’ says FM Lavrov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has pledged to give the “required response” to NATO’s increasing military buildup near Russia’s borders.

Amid concerns over the implementation of the fragile Minsk truce concerning Ukraine, the U.S. sent heavy equipment Monday to Latvia, which will be followed by U.S. soldiers who will be deployed in the Baltics next week, according to the Pentagon.

“The expanding military presence near the Russian border is not contributing to the restoration of trust with NATO,” said Lavrov in a joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo on Tuesday.

Lavrov stressed that they need to give the necessary answer to the buildup, adding that “they believe such problems could be resolved on the basis of equal and mutual respect.”

The U.S. shipment to Latvia included 750 military tanks, helicopters, and other heavy equipment, along with nearly 3,000 soldiers expected to travel to the region next week, as part of a three-month training mission with NATO partners in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Lavrov said it had been a difficult time recently for Moscow-Madrid relations due to international sanctions imposed on Russia and the Ukrainian crisis, adding that cooperation in several fields had been suspended as a consequence.

“We will not be demanding from Europe to lift the sanctions,” he said.

The Russian top diplomat also blamed Kiev for trying to halt the work of OSCE’s Trilateral Contact Group, which includes representatives of the separatist territories, by dragging its feet in the implementation of articles of the Minsk cease-fire deal.

The agreement was signed between Ukrainian army forces and pro-Russian rebels after marathon talks between the leaders of Germany, Ukraine, Russia and France in the capital of Belarus on Feb. 12.

For his part, Spanish Foreign Minister Margallo said there was no need to expand sanctions on Russia as the Minsk deal is currently being implemented.

In response to the annexation of Crimea by Moscow after a disputed self-rule referendum last March, the EU, along with the U.S., has imposed sanctions that target several of Russia’s key economic sectors as well as individuals accused of undermining Kiev’s sovereignty.

Furthermore, Western powers accuse Moscow of fanning the flames of conflict in eastern Ukraine since mid-April last year, supporting pro-Russian separatists in their fight with government forces. Russia denies this.

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