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- Secretary-General of NATO
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to use the forthcoming holiday season to withdraw his forces from the Ukrainian border.
Russia has the opportunity to ensure a peaceful and restful Christmas for all, Stoltenberg said in an interview with dpa. In order to do so, he said, Russia must reduce tensions and withdraw its troops.
According to the NATO secretary general, Russia has now massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine. "It's a significant military build-up and there are no signs that this is stopping or slowing down," he added.
The Norwegian left it open as to whether he suspected that the troop movements were primarily an attempt by Russia to extort concessions from NATO on security issues. "There is uncertainty about the Russian intentions," he said.
Stoltenberg pointed out that Russia had already used force against Ukraine in its annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
With regard to Russia's demands for additional security guarantees from NATO, Stoltenberg showed a willingness to talk. However, he rejected ideas that NATO could, for example, rule out admitting Ukraine as a member of the defence alliance.