BRUSSELS, May 25. /TASS/. In order to improve relations with NATO, Russia should stop supporting Donbass, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an exclusive interview with TASS ahead of the NATO summit due on May 25.
"If Russia starts to respect the Ukrainian borders, not undermining by supporting, and financing, and funding, and helping those separatists, then it will be perhaps the most important signal step towards improved relationships," he said.
According to Stoltenberg, "Russia has to understand, that when they continue to use military force by supporting, helping the separatists in eastern Ukraine, they every day violate a core principle - the respect for territorial integrity of all European nations." "This is something that NATO has to make sure do not happen against any NATO-allied country," he added.
When commenting on NATO’s decision to deploy four multinational battalions to the Baltic states and Poland, Stoltenberg said that "this is not to provoke conflict, this is to prevent conflict."
In response to a question concerning the territorial integrity of Cyprus, a part of which has been occupied by Turkey, a NATO member state, since 1974, Stoltenberg said that "Northern Cyprus is not annexed by any other country in Europe." "Russia is using force to change borders, that’s exactly my point," he added.
Since the beginning of the civil war in eastern Ukraine, Russia has been repeatedly denying accusations of interfering in the conflict. Besides, Moscow has called on NATO countries to provide evidence to prove their accusations.
After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in a coup in February 2014, mass protests began in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. On March 11, 2014, Crimea’s Supreme Council and Sevastopol City Council adopted a declaration of independence.
On March 16, 2014, a referendum on reuniting with Russia was conducted. Over 80% of voters participated in the plebiscite, most of them supporting the idea (96.7% in Crimea and 95.6% in the city of Sevastopol).
On March 18, the treaty on Crimea’s reunification with Russia was signed by President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Federal Assembly (parliament) approved the document on March 21.