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    Moscow Accuses NATO of Intensifying Tensions in Ukraine, Acting Destructively

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - NATO acts destructively and contributes to rising domestic tensions in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Friday, commenting on NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's recent visit to the country.

    "We have taken note of statements released following the visit of the North Atlantic Council, headed by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, to Ukraine, held from October 30-31. NATO is again bringing a set of absolutely groundless claims and accusations against Russia. It is trying to misrepresent the domestic Ukrainian conflict, presenting it as a conflict with Russia. It is ignoring the effort of the Contact Group on Ukraine," Zakharova said in a statement, released on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

    "The alliance continues acting destructively, it is making effort not toward reconciliation but toward aggravation, it contributes to stoking tensions, including through promising to Ukrainians that NATO will always be on their side. NATO's military support for Kiev obviously produces a destabilizing and provocative effect on the situation in Ukraine," Zakharova went on to say.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman also noted that NATO's calls on Kiev to "rush into the Euro-Atlantic embrace" were only provoking splits in the country, deepening "new dividing lines in Europe" and increasing ethnic tensions.

    On Wednesday, Jens Stoltenberg and the NATO delegation started a two-day trip to Ukraine, which began with a visit to Odessa. During the visit, the NATO chief met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian ministers of foreign affairs and defence.

    Stoltenberg stressed while addressing cadets at the Maritime Academy in Ukraine's Odessa that Moscow's opinion regarding Ukraine's possible accession to NATO is not important for making a final decision, as it has "no legal platform" to play a role in this process.

    He added that the decision that Kiev would join the alliance was taken at NATO's Bucharest summit in 2008 and it was still in force, although some transformations within the country were needed.

    Non-Aligned Status of Ukraine

    Since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, NATO has been boosting its presence in Eastern Europe citing Russia's alleged interference in Kiev’s internal conflict as justification for its actions.

    Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada in December 2014 amended two laws, abandoning the non-aligned status of the state. In June 2016, additional changes were adopted that determined the entry into NATO as the country's foreign policy goal. Ukraine also needs to ensure the full compatibility of its armed forces with the forces of NATO countries by 2020.

    Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Ukraine will need to achieve a number of criteria to join the alliance, which will take a long time to be implemented. Experts believe that Kiev will not be able to qualify for NATO membership within the next 20 years.

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