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Putin warns of consequences of NATO military buildup

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C) chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council in Moscow, Russia, April 6, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has warned of the consequences of NATO’s military buildup near his country’s western borders, saying the move would provoke conflicts and cause military and political instability in the region.

“New challenges and tasks are emerging in the [Russian] border sphere and other areas,” Putin said at a meeting with members of Russia’ Security Council in Moscow on Friday.

“NATO is building up its military potential near our borders and attempts are being made to halt integration processes with Russia’s participation, provoke new and stir up old conflicts in the post-Soviet space and in regions neighboring on Russia, with all the ensuing consequences —military and political instability, the growth of smuggling and crime and acute humanitarian problems,” he said.

The Russian leader stressed that “a key task in these conditions is to ensure the reliable protection and defense of our frontiers, quickly and effectively neutralize potential threats.”

NATO member states, largely made up of Western European countries, have significantly increased their military activities near Russia’s western borders in recent years.

Russia, realizing that security threat under its nose, has held several military drills to maintain preparedness, and the NATO countries have then pointed to those drills as signs that Russia has aggressive intentions.

Russian warships have been conducting huge live-fire drills near the coast of Latvia in the Baltic Sea since April 4. Four vessels have been taking part in the drills, described by the Russian Defense Ministry as a “show of force.”

Putin sacks nearly a dozen generals weeks after re-election

Separately, the RIA Novosti news agency said in a report on Friday that Putin had removed 11 generals from Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Penitentiary Service, the Ministry for Emergency Situations, and the Investigative Committee.

The Russian leader announced new appointments in a decree, according to the agency.

The specific reasons for the reshuffle were not available in early local reports.

Putin scored a landslide re-election victory for the fourth time with 73.9 percent of the votes on March 18.

Putin has seen his approval ratings skyrocket since the last election in 2012, with many attributing the surge in the incumbent’s popularity to his successful policies toward regional issues, particularly the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

The 65-year-old leader was first elected in 2000 following a handover of power by then-President Boris Yeltsin, who resigned six months before the end of his tenure.

Putin has vowed to use his new term to boost Russia’s defenses against the West and to raise living standards.

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