NATO’s secretary general will make his first visit to Ukraine this month, Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Monday, dismissing the idea that this would provoke Moscow, which is backing the pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
After a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Pavlo Klimkin said the visit, which he called symbolic as his ex-Soviet nation seeks to integrate with the West, would upgrade NATO’s representation in Ukraine and broaden technical cooperation.
Klimkin rejected the idea that the visit would worsen relations with a Russian government that wants to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence and has made clear its adamant opposition to Ukraine’s ambition of joining NATO.
Against a backdrop of “Russian aggression” in eastern Ukraine, he said the visit could hardly be classed as “further provocation”.
Both Ukraine and NATO say they have overwhelming evidence that Russia has provided men and weaponry to the rebels in eastern Ukraine, but Moscow denies providing anything other than political support.
Stoltenberg is expected to inaugurate NATO-Ukrainian civil protection exercises at a time when the deadline is nearing for fulfillment of a peace agreement that has so far failed to stop low-level fighting in eastern Ukraine.