Accessibility links

Breaking News

NATO Chief Demands Russia Get Out Of Eastern Ukraine, Stop Supporting Separatists

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (right) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Kyiv on October 31.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (right) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Kyiv on October 31.

KYIV -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has demanded that Russia end its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and called on it to withdraw all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.

Speaking at a press conference in Kyiv on October 31 after talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Stoltenberg also said Moscow must return three Ukrainian Navy vessels that its forces seized in the Kerch Strait off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula last November.

"NATO supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia," Stoltenberg said. "Russia must end supporting separatists in east Ukraine."

"Russia should remove its troops and equipment from Ukrainian territory," Stoltenberg told the press conference.

Military Exercises

Standing beside Zelenskiy following a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission on October 31, Stoltenberg said NATO plans to increase its support for Ukraine in the Black Sea by staging military exercises in the region.

Russia maintains that the Ukrainian Navy ships its forces seized in the Kerch Strait were in Russian territorial waters at the time. But that claim has been rejected by the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of The Sea

Earlier on October 31, Stoltenberg met with the Ukrainian president in Kyiv for talks that, according to Zelenskiy's office, involved "a narrow circle" of NATO and Ukrainian officials.

Stoltenberg said that peace agreements aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces must be implemented by all sides.

He said that NATO supported Zelenskiy's efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict, adding that NATO was assisting Ukraine in order to strengthen its defense institutions and its armed forces.

But he said Ukraine needs to continue implementing reforms to secure the country's security and to ensure its future membership in NATO.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine was "ready for shifting to a new level," and joining NATO's Enhanced Opportunity Program.

The Ukrainian president also expressed hope that cooperation between NATO and Kyiv "will deepen to strengthen our defense capabilities."

Stoltenberg was scheduled to speak at the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, later on October 31.

The NATO chief's visit to Ukraine comes just a few days after Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists began withdrawing weaponry from frontline areas in eastern Ukraine.

The disengagement is seen as a crucial step before long-awaited peace talks between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany aimed at bringing an end to the 5 1/2-year-old war in eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine plans to begin its next stage of withdrawing troops from the front lines in eastern Ukraine on November 4 near the town of Petrivske.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
  • 16x9 Image

    RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

    RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service has seen its audience grow significantly since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022 and is among the most cited media outlets in the country. Its bold, in-depth reporting from the front lines has won many accolades and awards. Its comprehensive coverage also includes award-winning reporting by the Donbas.Realities and Crimea.Realities projects and the Schemes investigative unit.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.