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Russia criticizes NATO pledge to Ukraine, Georgia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday the entry of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO would be a “huge strategic mistake” after alliance leaders pledged to offer them membership one day.

But in a less strident reaction, Russia’s envoy to NATO said a decision by the alliance to review the progress of the two former Soviet republics again in December would change nothing.

NATO leaders failed to offer Ukraine and Georgia a Membership Action Plan (MAP)-- a gateway to possible entry -- at a summit in Bucharest on Wednesday, but agreed on Thursday to let them join the defense alliance one day.

“Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the alliance is a huge strategic mistake which would have most serious consequences for pan-European security,” Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

An alliance diplomat said NATO leaders had agreed to review the progress of Georgia and Ukraine towards MAP status in December. Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said the offer of a review later this year altered nothing.

“I doubt very much that in less than a year Georgia can solve its territorial problems and Ukraine can change the current proportion of NATO sympathizers,” he said.

NATO members in Europe who opposed granting MAP to Georgia said Tbilisi’s conflicts with its separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were an obstacle to membership.

Some alliance members cited the low level of public support for NATO membership in Ukraine as a reason for delaying granting that country an action plan.

Reporting by Mark John and Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Timothy Heritage

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