(Adds details, background)
MOSCOW, April 1 Russia warned Ukraine against
integration with NATO on Tuesday, saying Kiev's previous
attempts to move closer to the bloc had strained ties with
Russia and caused problems between Moscow and the defence
"(Past attempts) led to a freezing of Russian-Ukrainian
political contacts, a headache between NATO and Russia and ...
to a division in Ukrainian society," the Russian Foreign
Ministry said as NATO foreign ministers gathered for a meeting
It warned that future economic ties between Moscow and Kiev
"will largely depend on the actions Ukraine takes in its foreign
The statement underscored Russia's sensitivity to contacts
between Moscow's former Cold War enemy NATO and Ukraine, with
whom Russia's relations have deteriorated since the removal of
Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich as president on Feb. 22.
Moscow sees Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, as part of
its traditional sphere of influence and wants a neutrality
clause included in Ukraine's constitution to prevent it joining
Ukraine pursued NATO membership during President Viktor
Yushchenko's rule from 2005 until 2010. The Kremlin has sought,
where possible, to keep buffer states between Russia and NATO.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove, Editing by Timothy Heritage)