Prague - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called in Prague on Russia to withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border and open dialogue with Kiev that would lead to reducing the tension in the east.
Generální tajemník NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen (vlevo) a premiér Bohuslav Sobotka vystoupili 10. dubna po jednání v Praze na společné tiskové konferenci. ČTK Šimánek Vít
He said the Russian operations are an illegal and illegitimate aggression and that the methods used by Moscow and its rhetoric belong in the past.
Rasmussen also called for a stop to the declining defence spending by member countries and for raising investments in the development of the Alliance´s armies.
Rasmussen said it has happened for the first time since the end of the Cold War that one state is trying to gain a part of the territory of its neighbour, even using weapons.
He said some 40,000 Russian soldiers are currently deployed along the Ukrainian border, which is no exercise. They are ready for fighting.
Yet, Rasmussen said, any solution to the crisis in the east of Europe lies in diplomatic effort.
He accused Russians of inciting ethnic tension and making use of the military force to make Ukraine become a neutral federation.
Such a decision can only be made by Ukraine, which is a sovereign state, Rasmussen said.
He dismissed as clear propaganda Russia´s claim that Ukrainian authorities oppress Russian minorities, with which it tries to justify its steps, and that NATO has a cold-war mentality.
Rasmussen said NATO should reinforce military cooperation with Kiev. Ukraine could take part in some NATO actions, he added.
Rasmussen said there is a big difference between whether a country is a NATO member or not.
Czech President Milos Zeman has repeatedly said NATO should enter Ukrainian territory if Russian troops cross the border of its neighbour elsewhere than in Crimea. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka disagrees with his opinion.