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Ukraine calls for arms supplies as Russian troops worry NATO

By VOLODYMYR VERBYANY AND HENRY MEYER | Bloomberg News | Published: April 25, 2015

KIEV, Ukraine (Tribune News Service) — Ukraine urged its allies to send it weapons and accused rebels of persistent cease-fire violations as NATO warned about an increase in Russian troop movement both near and across the border.

Russia said it was concerned about U.S. plans to supply modern weaponry directly or indirectly to Ukraine and accused the government in Kiev of keeping an economic blockade of the rebel-held territories in the Donbas region. The yearlong separatist conflict is fueling diplomatic tensions as Ukraine and its allies in the European Union and the U.S. blame Russia for stocking the insurgency with supplies of arms, fighters and money. Leaders in Moscow deny any involvement.

“The Ukrainian army needs weapons to defend Ukraine,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told lawmakers in Kiev on Friday. “And our western partners must hear: Now the Ukrainian army is struggling not just for itself, but we are fighting for peace and stability in the EU.”

Russia is staging a “substantial build-up” of forces near and in eastern Ukraine, which is undermining the cease-fire agreement signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk in February, Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said late on Thursday.

The rebels broke truce 21 times in the past day, including fire from heavy weapons, even as shelling has declined, authorities in Kiev said on Friday.

There’s a “rising concern” about violence in eastern Ukraine and the presence of U.S. military instructors is “adding fuel to fire,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow.

The peace process is in a “dead-end” and Ukraine’s allies should put pressure on its leaders to comply with the cease-fire accord, according to Lukashevich. The “main problem” is Ukraine’s refusal to talk to rebels, he said on Friday.

U.S. paratroopers were among 300 foreign soldiers who arrived in Ukraine to train the army, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said April 17.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia to ask the separatists to abide by the truce accord, according to a State Department statement about an April 22 phone call between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov has said Russia wants a “neutral” and unified Ukraine and accused the NATO seeking to turn its neighbor into a hostile state. He told Kerry that arrival of U.S. paratroopers in Ukraine was an evidence of violation of Kiev’s promise to withdraw all foreign forces.

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