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AKIPRESS.COM - The head of NATO called on Russia to "step back from the brink" of war by pulling its troops back from the Ukrainian border and warned further intervention in Ukraine would bring it greater isolation in the world, Reuters reports.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the U.S.-led alliance's secretary general, made his call on Thursday during a visit to Ukraine in a show of solidarity after NATO warned of a possible invasion by Russia which, it said, had massed 20,000 troops near the frontier.
Saying Russia's support for the rebels was growing in "scale and sophistication", Rasmussen said: "I call on Russia to step back from the brink, step back from the border and not use peacekeeping as an excuse for war-making."
Earlier, he and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk discussed possible Western alliance support for Ukraine's defensive strength - excluding lethal aid - even as the Kiev government's forces continued losing men in clashes with pro-Russia separatists in the Russian-speaking east.
Rasmussen said the downing of flight MH17 with the deaths of all 298 people on board was a tragic consequence of Russia's "reckless" policy in Ukraine and he urged Moscow to end its support for the separatists and engage in "sincere dialogue" to bring peace.
Rasmussen, at his meeting with Yatseniuk, discussed the possibility of a proposed NATO trust fund to support Kiev's capabilities in such areas as command and control, communications and cyberdefence, the government said.
But the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine by the military alliance did not appear to have been discussed.
Asked about this at the news conference, said it was not a question for the alliance as such but for its individual members.