Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu speak during an April 15 meeting of the council of trustees of the Russian Geographical Society in Moscow . (Alexey Druzhinin / Getty Images)
Canada Deploys Fighter Jets for Eastern Europe Patrols
OTTAWA — Six Canadian CF-18 fighter jets left for Romania Tuesday to take part in increased NATO patrols over Eastern Europe amid rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
The multi-role military aircraft took off from their base in Bagotville, Quebec, at 9 a.m. local time (1300 GMT) as Canadian Defense Minister Rob Nicholson looked on.
In Romania, Nicholson said, the jets will be conducting “training activities in support of (NATO) reassurance measures” in Central and Eastern Europe to demonstrate what another official described as “the strength of Allied solidarity in response to Russian aggression.”
France, Britain and Poland have already deployed fighter aircraft to Poland, Lithuania and Estonia, respectively, in response to Russia’s military buildup along its border with former Soviet-era satellite Ukraine.
Four warplanes from Denmark are also en route to the region.
NATO announced this month that it would step up its defenses in Eastern Europe due to the growing crisis.
It has also deployed ships in the Baltic Sea and eastern Mediterranean. – AFP
BRUSSELS — NATO said Tuesday it has seen no sign of a Russian troop withdrawal from the border with Ukraine after Moscow insisted it would not invade its Soviet-era satellite.
“We currently have no information that indicates a withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border,” a NATO official said.
“We continue to urge Russia to abide by the Geneva agreement and to pull back all its troops along the Ukrainian border in favor of diplomacy and dialogue,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
On Monday, the Pentagon said US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had spoken by telephone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu and that “Shoigu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine.”
Hagel and Shoigu discussed a range of issues related to the situation in Ukraine, a statement said, with Hagel requesting clarification of Russia’s intentions as it has massed an estimated 40,000 troops on the border.
In Moscow’s version of the exchange, Shoigu told Hagel that troops had returned to barracks after conducting exercises.
“Russia was forced to launch large-scale exercises near the border with Ukraine, facing the prospect of (Ukrainian) military action against civilians,” Shoigu said.
“Once the Ukrainian authorities declared that they would not use regular military units against the unarmed population, the Russian troops returned to barracks.”