NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said Russia is still arming and training rebel forces in eastern Ukraine. He also expressed concern about the withdrawal of heavy weapons amid fears they could be repositioned.
Speaking at NATO's military headquarters in Belgium on Wednesday, Stoltenberg called on the Ukraine military and pro-Russian separatists to support foreign monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) by giving them the safe and free access and comprehensive information they needed to reinforce the truce.
"Our main message today is that the OSCE needs access," he said. "What we ask for is both freedom of movement ... but also that they get access to necessary information ... The monitoring of ceasefire is by no means sufficient today.
"Therefore we call on Russia to withdraw all its forces from eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk agreement," Stoltenberg added.
One Ukrainian soldier was killed and four were injured in the country's east on Tuesday, a military spokesman said.
Russia still present
On Tuesday, senior State Department official Victoria Nuland told a US Congressional hearing that Russian tanks and artillery had crossed into eastern Ukraine in recent days in breach of the ceasefire deal agreed in Minsk on February 12.
"Even as Ukraine is building a peaceful, democratic, independent nation across 93 percent of its territory, Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine are suffering a reign of terror," Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for Europe, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In response to Nuland's remark, Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Russian presence and strong support for the separatists is still being seen in eastern Ukraine.
"We see the delivery of equipment, forces, training. And so Russia is still in eastern Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.
Top NATO commander, US General Philip Breedlove also said they were positive that Ukraine troops and pro-Russian separatists had withdrawn heavy weaponry and men from the front line as both sides reported last week.
NATO remains unsure, however, about the whereabouts of the weapons and fears they could be repositioned for battle.
When asked if there is a risk of a worst-case scenario under which the weapons could be repositioned for new battles, Stoltenberg said: "The short answer is yes. So that's the reason why it is so important to get the full information about where the weapons are now, the numbers and where they are moved."
ksb/sms (Reuters, dpa)