NATO Chief to Visit Ukraine

NATO Chief to Visit Ukraine

NATO Chief to Visit Ukraine

The FINANCIAL -- The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will make his first visit to Ukraine later this month, as that country enters a critical period which is supposed to see Russia and Ukraine fully implement February's cease-fire agreement.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit was announced by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, during his visit to the alliance's Brussels headquarters on September 8. The visit was confirmed by NATO, although no other details were provided, according to Nasdaq.

Mr. Klimkin said Mr. Stoltenberg is expected to sign an agreement that would allow the alliance to set up an office in Ukraine and increase cooperation on strategic communications, demining, naval issues and special operations.

"It should be a symbolic visit in our relations," he said.

The visit comes ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline for the full implementation of February's cease-fire agreement between Ukraine, Russia and pro-Russian separatists, signed in the Belarus capital of Minsk.

Mr. Stoltenberg took over at NATO in October 2014. His predecessor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visited Ukraine in August 2014, months after Russia's annexation of Crimea and the start of a conflict in eastern Ukraine.

NATO and many Western governments accuse Russia of supporting and supplying the eastern Ukraine rebels, a charge that Moscow denies.

In his remarks in Brussels Monday morning, Mr. Klimkin said he could meet with his German, French and Russian counterparts as early as the end of the week, but only if there is progress with ongoing lower-level negotiations over the Minsk accords.

"It doesn't make sense to get together just for the sake of getting together," said Pavlo Klimkin, the foreign minister.

He said he wanted to see progress on agreement to allow for an exchange of hostages, access for humanitarian assistance and an agreement on local elections in eastern Ukraine.

"We need Russian readiness to embrace ... free and fair elections in Donbas," he said. "A critical point will be Russian readiness to not go along with another set of fake elections."

Separatists in Ukraine's Donbas region have threatened to hold local elections on Oct. 18 and Nov 1. Ukraine is holding local elections on Oct. 25, but has said it would not hold the ballot in some areas in the east because of ongoing hostilities.

Mr. Klimkin said that if the rebel-held elections proceed, it "would trigger a difficult situation in the Minsk process."

He also urged Russia to allow election monitors into the Donbas.