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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia Issues Contradicting Statements on NATO

by VOA News March 21, 2015

A Russian senior official said that Moscow is not seeking confrontation with NATO.

The Russian Interfax news agency reported Saturday that Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov made a statement to that effect at a news briefing for foreign defense attaches in Moscow, addressing the outcome of a major inspection of the Russian armed forces' combat readiness.

"We are not seeking confrontation with the alliance, and we favor the development of cooperation,' Antonov is quoted as saying.

In an attempt to reassure the audience, Antonov also said that Russia is "not going to attack anyone."

However, Russia's ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin commented in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten Saturday that Danish ships will become Russian targets if country joins NATO's missile defense system.

Vanin's statement prompted an angry response from Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard, who said that such comments were 'unacceptable'' and that Vanin had 'crossed the line'' by saying that 'everyone who joins'' the shield 'in the future will be a target for Russian ballistic missiles.''

Lidegaard added, however, that 'it is important that the tone between" Russia and Denmark "does not escalate.''

The U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford, tweeted in response, that Vanin's comments 'do not inspire confidence'' or contribute to peace and stability.

Russia's relations with the West have reached a lowest point because of Russia's annexation of Crimea one year ago and Russia's support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

European Union leaders, meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, agreed to keep in place the economic sanctions against Russia until the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, which Moscow endorsed, is fully implemented.

The West has accused Russia of supporting the separatists, but Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusations.

More than 6,000 people have lost their lives in the year-long conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

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