11:03 Apr. 16, 2016
Alliance set to meet Russian officials on April 20, for the first time since Ukraine conflict broke out
The first meeting between NATO and the Russia Council since the start of the conflict in Ukraine is already off to a rough start.
The Kremlin said Friday, April 15, it would use the meeting scheduled for Wednesday, April 20, as an opportunity to protest the military and political alliance's buildup in the Baltic region.
"Today we are having a military buildup in the Baltic area, which from our point of view is absolutely unjustified," said Alexander Grushko, Russia's permanent representative to NATO, Agence France-Presse reported. "The shape of NATO-Russia relations is very bad."
NATO broke off relations with Russia following the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and the start of war in Eastern Ukraine in April 2014. The war has pitted Ukrainian government troops against Russian-backed rebels leaving more than 9,000 people dead and 1.4 million displaced.
Baltic States as well as Central European states have called for an increased NATO presence in the region to deter Russia's aggression. NATO is in the midst of its largest military buildup in the region since the end of the Cold War. At the end of March, the U.S. announced it would send an armored brigade to Eastern Europe to reassure regional allies. Full story