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Jun 16, 1:09 PM EDT

Russia assails NATO's move to deploy troops near its border

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BRUSSELS (AP) -- Russia's ambassador to NATO warned Thursday that the alliance's decision to station additional forces near the Russian borders will undermine European security.

Alexander Grushko's comments Thursday followed a meeting of NATO defense ministers, who agreed to deploy four multinational battalions on a rotational basis to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The allies also discussed establishing a Romanian-led multinational "framework brigade" of ground troops to help defend the Black Sea area.

"Those measures significantly erode the quality of regional security, in fact turning central and eastern Europe into an arena of military confrontation," Grushko said. He added that NATO's decision "directly infringes on our legitimate security interests" and "won't be left unanswered."

The alliance has halted cooperation with Russia amid the Ukrainian crisis and held exercises in the Baltics to reassure its eastern members worried about Russia's intentions.

Grushko also criticized NATO's pledge to offer non-lethal assistance to Ukraine, saying it could encourage its reluctance to abide by the Minsk peace agreement. The deal has helped reduce hostilities in eastern Ukraine, but fighting has continued and a political settlement has stalled.

More than 9,300 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which erupted in April 2014 weeks after Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

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