Russia warns Nato on Baltic military patrols

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Russia warned Nato yesterday against deploying forces in the former Soviet bloc and said that the Baltic states' failure to respect the rights of ethnic Russians represented a "threat" to the country.

Russia warned Nato yesterday against deploying forces in the former Soviet bloc and said that the Baltic states' failure to respect the rights of ethnic Russians represented a "threat" to the country.

Russia has long felt threatened by the encroachment of Nato on its borders, and Sergei Ivanov, the Defence Minister, said: "What alarms us most, from the point of view of our own security, is the Nato deployment of means and forces on the territory of its new members."

Belgian airforce fighter jets now patrol Baltic airspace, following the accession of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Nato, and Russia is concerned about monitoring of Russian airspace by Baltic radar systems.

Mr Ivanov, addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, singled out the EU members Latvia and Estonia for failing to respect human rights, comparing their record unfavourably with that of Moscow.

But Oksana Antonenko of the institute said that the minister's tone was positive. "I would say the speech was surprisingly pro-Nato," she said. It showed Russia wanted to co-operate with the alliance.

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