Ukraine's leader talks about closer Nato ties

Moscow - Undeterred by threats from Russia that Ukraine's Nato ambitions would derail peace talks, Ukraine's leader discussed closer ties with Nato at a meeting on Thursday with President Barack Obama and other Nato leaders in Wales.

Russia and Ukraine say they are working on a deal to halt months of fighting in eastern Ukraine between government troops and Russian-backed separatists. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denies supporting the rebels, spelled out a seven-point plan on Wednesday for ending hostilities and expressed hope for a breakthrough at peace talks Friday in Minsk, Belarus.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday that statements by officials in Kiev that Ukraine will be seeking to join Nato are "a blatant attempt to derail all the efforts" to seek a peaceful solution to the fighting.

Facing major challenges with conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq and a winding down of operations in Afghanistan, Nato leaders were meeting at a golf resort in southern Wales. Before the official proceedings began, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attended a meeting with Obama and the leaders of four major European powers in the alliance: British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Later in the day, Poroshenko was to meet with the heads of state and government from all 28 Nato member states. Nato officials have made clear that membership for Ukraine isn't in the cards any time soon, but the alliance is expected to express solid support for Poroshenko's government and announce an increase in non-lethal aid for Ukraine's military.

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused the Russians on Thursday of continued meddling in Ukraine despite Putin's proclamation of a peace plan.

"What counts is what is actually happening on the ground," Rasmussen said. "And we are still witnessing, unfortunately, Russian involvement in destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine. So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine, stop the support for armed militants in Ukraine and engage in a constructive political process."

New front

Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine since mid-April in a conflict that the UN estimates has killed nearly 2 600 people.

Rebels have made substantial advances against Ukrainian forces over the past two weeks, including opening a new front along the Sea of Azov coast. That offensive has raised concerns the rebels are aiming to seize control of Mariupol, a major port of about 500 000 people, in order to secure a land corridor between Russia and Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed in March.

Despite one round of peace talks this week, fighting was still intense in southeastern Ukraine.

An AP reporter saw three military-type vehicles ablaze Thursday in Berezove, a village along the road connecting Mariupol with Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city. Rebel fighters were on the move, indicating they could be trying to take control of the strategic highway. Later, columns of smoke rose outside the nearby village of Olenivka, suggesting that Ukrainian forces could be trying to retake it.

Ukraine's National Security Council spokesperson, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, told reporters on Thursday that 837 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 3 044 wounded since the fighting began in April.

Representatives of the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russian rebels, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe will be gathering for more talks on Friday in Minsk. Lavrov said Moscow "will insist on a cease-fire" at those talks.

Hosni Mubar 2014/09/04 06:02:49 PM
What a socipathic fool is Putin. Now all of Europe is united against him. At least he's performed one valubale function: bringing them together.
Hosni Mubar 2014/09/04 06:18:35 PM
Wait for the NATO announcement in 36 hours from now.
WollieVerstege 2014/09/04 06:29:45 PM
Every nation has the right to determine their own destiny. Can you imagine Mexico telling SA we are not allowed to join the AU, or Australia telling Norway they have no right to join the UN.
Dun 2014/09/04 06:55:07 PM
So Iran must have the right to have nuclear weapons too
Kealeboga Letsholonyane 2014/09/04 07:12:58 PM
. . . If Ukraine signs a deal with Nato I reckon the rebels will be further enraged & subsequently increase their offensive operations and seize more teritory as they obviously want closer ties with Moscow. Then Ukraine's new masters, Nato will give them advanced military equipment, etc. to quel the rebelion in the South Eastern Ukraine. This will logically force Moscow to do the same - arm the rebels. From there your guess is good as mine as to what could follow. But I hope common sense will prevail and this posible scenrio will be avoided.
Mark Russell 2014/09/04 07:42:59 PM
Not sure why Iva thinks that anyone that has a different view to theirs misty be getting paid? An argument could be tabled more effectively that pro Western commentators are being paid because the majority are not using any logic in their arguments. The expansion of NATO was the very reason why the USA funded the violent coup originally so this is no surprise. It is also not over. Russia will not lie down for this.
Seshike Samuel Mmoledi 2014/09/04 08:00:54 PM
Gone are the days of USSR,Russian authorities want to start it by causing problems to all countries that broke away from USSR so that they put their control under them.
Nkanyiso Mdlalose 2014/09/04 09:04:07 PM
The same NATO that left Libya in shambles, they are sticking their long noses in Ukraine's affairs. Putin must send some missiles to Cuba I reckon
dunkie56 2014/09/04 10:14:16 PM
Like their supporters on this forum the elite in NATO are so smug with their little get together,cost millions of pounds to pay for it but their tax payers will just have to shoulder the burden.If you just stand back and survey what has happened over the last 9 months or so in will only come to one conclusion!The inability of people to make rational sense of all that has transpired is surely an indictment that this world or this mankind knows only one the old knights of old settled their scores by only one way...whoever wins is right and just ...all else is not important.Russia has the scientific knowledge physical ability to turn this world into a black cinder floating through space...enough pushing enough demonizing and I for one would not blame them for destroying mankind...mankind seeks only to attack and torment Russia...and so doing will seal the fate of us all and every living thing on this planet!
Mark Russell 2014/09/05 05:36:10 AM
Oh please Iva.... You write well for a four year old. What attitude are you imagining? Are you one of those 20kg poison dwarfs that thinks any opposition is attitude related? Get some sense of self and try build some confidence. I know it's hard when you are constantly being proven wrong but try updating your view and open your mind a little, you will be surprised how interesting the real world is.