Nato foreign ministers have ordered an end to all civil and military co-operation with Russia, stating that they had seen no evidence of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border.
Foreign ministers for the 28-member body began a two-day meeting in Brussels today to discuss how to react to the annexation of Crimea and how to reassure the alliance’s rattled eastern members in the face of a newly assertive Russia, including options for bolstering Nato’s military presence in eastern Europe.
The Secretary General of Nato played down reports of a Russian pullback from border areas with Ukraine. On Monday, Russia’s defence ministry said one battalion – about 500 troops – had withdrawn.
“This is not what we have seen,” the Nato chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told reporters. “This massive military build-up can in no way contribute to a de-escalation of the situation – a de-escalation that we all want to see – so I continue to urge Russia to pull back its troops, live up to its international obligation and engage in a constructive dialogue with Ukraine.”
The Nato meeting, which included Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, agreed further increases in air patrols already being conducted by other Nato members over the Baltic Sea.
In other developments, Moscow sharply hiked the cost of the natural gas it supplies to Ukraine and threatened to reclaim billions in earlier discounts, raising the heat on Ukraine’s cash-strapped government. Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom has withdrawn a discounted gas price of $268.50 (£161) per 1,000 cubic metres and set it at $385.50 for the second quarter.
The Russian parliament also moved to annul agreements with Ukraine to rent Russia’s Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea until 2042.
In Kiev, Ukraine’s parliament ordered security services to disarm all “illegal armed groups”, following a shooting in the city late on Monday night that wounded three people. Police said the incident involved a member of the radical Right Sector group. Parliament also voted to hold joint military exercises with Nato and other nations on Ukrainian soil.