Ukraine crisis: Nato beefs up presence in Poland after Russia's annexation of Crimea


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The Independent Online

Nato will strengthen its presence in Poland within weeks as the military alliance seeks to allay fears along Ukraine's western border over Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Speaking after a meeting of Nato foreign ministers yesterday, Poland's Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, said the stronger "military presence" would be "visible" in the coming days and weeks. "The discussion is not about if, but rather about the scale, pace and some technical aspects of strengthening Poland's security," he told the broadcaster TVN.

In an apparent move to minimise the risk of conflict with Russia, Nato has said it will use rotating reinforcements, rather than permanently stationing additional troops in Poland. The measures could include sending soldiers and equipment to eastern European allies for short-term reinforcements and exercises, as well as ensuring Nato's rapid-reaction force could deploy more quickly.

Ukrainian authorities yesterday said they had detained 15 people suspected of planning to "seize power" in the Russian-speaking east. The state security service said some 300 machine guns, an anti-tank grenade launcher, a large number of grenades, five handguns and petrol bombs were seized.

The service said those arrested were planning to stir up unrest in the region of Luhansk which, like most of eastern Ukraine, has been tense since the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych in February. The group, authorities claimed, had planned to carry out a coup next Thursday.

Western leaders and diplomats continued to present a united front over their commitment to imposing economic sanctions on Russia if it takes further steps to destabilise the country. "If the territorial integrity of Ukraine continues to be violated, then we will have to introduce economic sanctions," Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor said.