Nato summit: Alliance 'stands with Ukraine'

 

Ukraine's President Poroshenko: "Stability and security brutally undermined by Russian aggression"

The Nato military alliance, at its summit in Wales, has said it "stands with Ukraine" in the face of Russia's "destabilising" influence.

Nato also called on Russia "to pull back its troops" from Ukraine and end the "illegal" annexation of Crimea.

UK government officials say fresh EU and US sanctions will be announced against Russia on Friday.

Separately, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and rebel leaders said a ceasefire could be agreed on Friday.

Some 2,600 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels. Ukraine's military says 837 its soldiers have died since the conflict erupted in April.

In a statement delivered by Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance also called on Russia "to step back from confrontation and take the path to peace".

Nato's partnership with Ukraine was "strong" and the alliance was "determined to make it even stronger", including developing the ability of Ukrainian and Nato forces to work together.

Addressing reporters later, Mr Rasmussen said no-one wanted conflict with Russia and the best way forward was a political solution.

Russia denies arming pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine or that it has deployed troops in the country.

Nato summit in Wales, 4 September 2014 The summit has also called for Russia to end the annexation of Crimea
Military vehicles on the golf course of the Celtic Manor Hotel (3 September 2014) Correspondents say the Nato summit in Wales is the most important in decades
David Cameron (L) and Barack Obama visit a school in Newport (4 September 2014) David Cameron and Barack Obama visited a school in Newport on Thursday ahead of the summit
Members of the Ukrainian "Azov" battalion manning a checkpoint in Mariupol, 4 September 2014 Ukrainian government forces are manning checkpoints in Mariupol - as rebel shelling was heard in surrounding areas

The fresh sanctions to be announced by the United States and the European Union on Friday are expected to include further restrictions on the banking, energy and defence sectors.

More associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin will have travel bans imposed on them, and more banks owned by the Russian state will be banned from accessing the financial markets, UK government officials told the BBC.

At the Nato summit, French President Francois Hollande said an EU decision on imposing further sanctions on Russia would depend on what progress was made towards peace in Ukraine in the coming hours.

He had earlier signalled a toughening of European policy towards Russia on Wednesday by suspending a military deal worth 1.2bn euros ($1.6bn; £0.95bn).

Mariupol threatened

Ukrainian government forces have recently suffered several losses of territory, after rebels launched offensives in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea.

Reports are emerging that the separatists have begun shelling the outer defences of Mariupol. At least two military vehicles were seen on fire in the area, and eyewitnesses spoke of gunfire.

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At the scene: Fergal Keane, Mariupol
Ukrainians demonstrate in support of the army in Mariupol, 4 September 2014 Mariupol residents hope for peace but brace for war

Tonight we can hear explosions close to Mariupol. These come after a day in which rebel forces pushed towards the city from the recently taken town of Novoazovsk.

At a Ukrainian government position on the edge of Mariupol, troops told us they had pulled back after coming under fire from what they claimed were Russian tanks.

However, when the local governor Serhiy Taruta arrived on the scene, he insisted there had been no retreat. "It is just our soldiers relieving other soldiers on a rotation," he said.

The situation is confused and the atmosphere volatile. At one point a vehicle arrived with a wounded man. The soldiers - from the volunteer "Azov" battalion - screamed at journalists to put down their cameras.

Later, several hundred people gathered in Mariupol to demonstrate for peace. They will be hoping the talk of a ceasefire plan becomes a lasting achievement in the next few days. In the meantime, however, the city is bracing itself for war.

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Meanwhile, President Poroshenko said the implementation of a peace plan - which includes a bilateral ceasefire - could start on Friday, a hope expressed earlier by Mr Putin.

The Ukrainian leader said this depended on Friday talks in Minsk between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Mr Poroshenko said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the outcome of the talks.

How the Ukraine crisis has played out so far - in two minutes

Rebel leaders were quoted as saying they would order a ceasefire at 11:00 GMT on Friday if the peace plan was agreed.

On Wednesday, Mr Putin announced a seven-point plan, including a halt to "active offensive operations" by the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia rebels, international ceasefire monitoring, unconditional prisoner exchanges and humanitarian aid corridors.

'Unacceptable' actions

During the two-days of talks in Wales, Nato leaders are also set to discuss the rise of Islamic State (IS), and Afghanistan where Taliban militants launched a deadly attack on a government compound on Thursday.

An IS video released on Tuesday showed the killing of US journalist Steven Sotloff, just days after the group beheaded another American reporter, James Foley.

David Haines David Haines was captured in March last year with an Italian aid worker and two Syrians

In the latest video, an IS militant is also seen threatening to kill a UK hostage, aid worker David Haines, who was seized in March 2013 in Syria's Idlib province.

In other developments:

  • A senior figure in IS was killed in an Iraqi air strike, Iraq says
  • Nato renewed it commitment to Afghanistan, including training beginning in 2015 once the legal position is agreed with the Afghan authorities

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "Putin wants protracted, frozen conflicts in the neighbourhood"

The summit is considered Nato's most important for decades, as leaders faced the question of whether the alliance is equipped to deal with 21st Century challenges.

Moscow's actions in Ukraine have raised fears among Nato states bordering Russia, including Lithuania, which has a sizeable Russian-speaking minority.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told the BBC that if Nato did not face up to the challenge "sooner or later we will be facing the aggressor near our border, literally".

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Analysis: Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (l) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Nato summit in Wales, 4 September 2014 President Poroshenko has been given strong backing at the summit, but Nato will only go so far

Ukraine may be a partner-country of the Atlantic Alliance but it's a friendship laced with a heavy dose of pragmatism.

That's why Ukraine's president - who has been publicly feted here at this summit - is nonetheless moving towards a ceasefire with Russian-backed rebel forces.

In public Nato's message is one of resolve; full-backing for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity combined with strong criticism of Russia's policies.

But there is another message too - one that is trumpeted less by Western leaders - essentially telling Ukraine that any practical help that Nato may give Kiev will be limited and will be more a prospect for the medium term.

What matters now is to de-escalate the crisis. There will be no Nato weapons or Nato troops. What the alliance is doing is essentially re-emphasising its defence lines on Ukraine's western border. And if this means that Kiev has to make concessions to Moscow, then so be it.

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Map of rebel forces in Ukraine, 4 September 2014
 

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  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 1072.

    Russia has lost it's respect and trust in the world. It will take decades to get it back, the cost to it is enormous. What on earth do they think that they are doing.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 985.

    At the moment there are civilians being murdered by soldiers on all sides in all conflicts. I would like to see the real numbers, but i am a civilian thus am just another zero as are we all. You can see that the way our Governments stiff us all the time ignoring the will of the people who pay their inflated wages.
    Keep your kids from joining the services is all we can do.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 880.

    Only problem with the West is they think Democracy is the Best way of life

    Democracy is a Culture its not measurably best by anyway, afterall non-democratic countries like China dong better than many

    Particularly Middle-East is not used to Democracy but to Dictatorship.If you destabilize a dictator in Middle east, all we will get is Terrorism. We took out Saddam, Now Iraq is a terrorist land

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 802.

    West is an easy scapegoat isn't it?

    Fighting in Middle East and Ukraine is allegedly the fault of the West. It's not perhaps the people shooting each other?

    The West seem to be the only people who show concern for atrocities around the world. Do the Russians or Chinese, or most middle eastern countries care for example? I don't think so.

    Russians could have stopped Assad but did they? No.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 734.

    Let there be talks over Ukraine and a peace settlement. There is plenty of blame to go around. More trade, not sanctions, and increased prosperity will go a long way towards reducing international tensions

 

Comments 5 of 14

 

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