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NATO Decries Russian Military Buildup Near Ukraine

Published: June 20, 2014 (Issue # 1816)



  • NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in London on Thursday.
    Photo: NATO

BRUSSELS Russia has resumed a military buildup near Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday, calling it "a very regrettable step backward."

"I can confirm that we now see a new Russian military buildup at least a few thousand more Russian troops deployed to the Ukrainian border and we see troop maneuvers in the neighborhood of Ukraine," Rasmussen said in London.

"If they are deployed to seal the border and stop the flow of weapons and fighters that would be a positive step. But that is not what we are seeing."

The Defense Ministry declined to comment on Rasmussen's claim.

Officials responded angrily to previous NATO claims of a massive Russian military presence near the 2,000-kilometer border, calling them overblown and insisting that the troops there were stationed quite far from the border and were involved in regular training.

Still, President Vladimir Putin last month ordered troops in the areas near the border to return to their permanent bases elsewhere in Russia. NATO said in late May that the bulk of an estimated 40,000 troops had pulled back.

The new military deployments, if true, would come at a delicate time. On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko offered a unilateral cease-fire to jump-start his plan to end fighting in the country's east, where government forces have struggled to suppress a pro-Russian insurgency for two months.

Next week, foreign ministers and leaders of the European Union are scheduled to hold meetings at which relations with Ukraine and Russia will be key discussion topics, including whether Russia's actions toward Ukraine warrant imposing tougher economic sanctions.

Rasmussen said Russia appears to be using its military to intimidate Ukraine further.

"I consider this a very regrettable step backwards and it seems that Russia keeps the option to intervene further," Rasmussen said. "So the international community would have to respond firmly if Russia were to intervene further. That would imply deeper sanctions which would have a negative impact on Russia."

In his speech, Rasmussen said the U.S.-led NATO alliance is at a turning point.

"The world that we helped to build after the end of the Cold War is being challenged in different ways and from different directions," he told his audience at Chatham House.

"To our east, Russia's aggression against Ukraine is an attempt to rewrite international rules and recreate a sphere of influence. At the same time, to our south, we see states or extreme groups using violence to assert their power. And overall, we see threats old and new, from piracy to terrorism to cyber-attacks."





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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