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NATO-Russia Council Holds First Session This Year As Tensions Persist

Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aleksei Meshkov
Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aleksei Meshkov

Ambassadors from NATO nations and Russia gathered at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels for the first NATO-Russia Council session of 2017.

The talks on March 30 are expected to focus on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the security situation in Afghanistan, and ways to reduce military risks in Europe.

The NATO-Russia Council session follows three similar gatherings last year. It comes a day before a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers that will include U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia after Moscow's seizure and annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, but the political channels remain open via the council.

State-run Russian news agency TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksei Meshkov as saying Moscow plans to discuss "NATO's military buildup along our borders."

The alliance has deployed thousands of soldiers and heavy weaponry to Poland, the Baltic states, and southeastern Europe, moving to provide extra security and reassurances to members close to Russia following its aggression in Ukraine.

Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed more than 9,900 people in eastern Ukraine since that April.

Russia has also caused concern among NATO nations with snap military exercises in its Western regions and by buzzing the alliance's ships and aircraft with fighter jets, as well as the aggressive use of propaganda.

With reporting by TASS

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