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Stoltenberg: 'Profound disagreements' between NATO and Russia

After the first NATO-Russia Council meeting in years, the alliance's chief said "practical cooperation" was still not possible. A Russian official said Moscow is "against an arms race" as NATO bolsters its eastern flank.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday said there would be "no return to practical cooperation" between the alliance and Moscow "until Russia returns to the respect of international law." However, he also praised the atmosphere of the first such meeting

since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014.

"I think we had a frank, serious and actually good meeting," Stoltenberg told a news conference after the talks.

"NATO and Russia have profound and persistent disagreements … (and) today's meeting did not change that," Stoltenbergalso said following the first

NATO-Russia Council

session in two years.

Stoltenberg reiterated NATO's stance that Moscow is actively supporting separatists in Ukraine's eastern regions, and would not recognize Russia's administration of Crimea.

In 2014, an armed separatist insurgency erupted in

eastern Ukraine

following pro-democracy protests in Kyiv that led to the overthrow of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.

"Allies do not recognize Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. We stressed that the increase in ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine in recent days is deeply disturbing. As are the recent incidents targeting OSCE monitors," the NATO chief added, referring to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has a monitoring mission in Ukraine's conflict-hit areas.

However, Stoltenberg said NATO would keep "channels of communication" open in order to

reduce the risks of defense-related incidents.

Russia 'against arms race'

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told Russian media that Moscow is taking precautionary measures by bolstering its defenses on the country's western borders.

"The military build-up is taking place along the perimeter of the

western borders of the Russian Federation.

Such dangerous plans are implemented in the missile defense sphere. The NATO countries' defense spending is increasing," Antonov said in comments carried by Russia's state-owned TASS news agency.

"We see all this, note this and take the appropriate military-technical measures. However, I would like to emphasize - we are against an arms race, no matter who imposes it on us," Antonov added.

Earlier this month,

Russian warplanes "buzzed" over a US naval destroyer

in the Baltic Sea. The maneuver had the "potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions," said the US military's Europe Command (EUCOM).

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