NATO Chief Visits Ukraine to Launch Joint Exercise

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the country's Lviv region on Monday to launch a joint disaster management exercise of NATO and Ukrainian emergency personnel, Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform reports.

Stoltenberg's two-day visit to Ukraine will also take him to Kiev where he will attend a meeting of Ukraine's defence advisory body the National Security and Defence Council. After meeting the president, the alliance's top diplomat will be greeted by Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, Volodymyr Hroisman.

The president's office reported that Stoltenberg's visit, which comes on Poroshenko's invitation, is planned to coincide with the signing of a new document which will increase the status of NATO's delegation in the country to that of a diplomatic one.

"This visit will be a milestone," acting Ukrainian ambassador to NATO, Yehor Bozhok told Reuters.

"In Soviet times, we were ready for an attack from the West. Reality now demonstrates that the threat comes from the East," he added, saying that the visit was aimed at agreeing a new doctrine which identifies Russia as an aggressor.

Although there is mounting evidence that Russia is backing separatist rebels in Ukraine's eastern Donbas regions, Russia officially denies any of its military officers are in the regions in any official capacity and its support for separatist-held lands is humanitarian.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin denied earlier this month that Stoltenberg's visit would worsen relations between Kiev and Russia further, as he said the meeting could hardly be considered an act of "further provocation" against backdrop of "Russian aggression" in eastern Ukraine.