January 21, 2019 / 1:12 PM / 7 months ago

NATO, Russian ambassadors to meet on Friday

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO and Russian ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Friday, the Western military alliance said, with discussions likely to focus on the standoff over Ukraine and on nuclear weapons.

This would be the ninth such NATO-Russia Council since the start of 2016.

“Following consultations with Russia, we have agreed to hold a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at ambassadorial level on Jan. 25, 2019 at NATO headquarters in Brussels,” a NATO official said on Monday.

NATO has criticized Russia over its seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews in November. A court in Moscow ruled last week that 24 Ukrainian sailors seized off the coast of Crimea should be kept in pre-trial detention until April.

Russia has meanwhile warned that a new U.S. missile defense strategy would unleash a dangerous arms race in space and amount to a relaunch of the Cold War-era “Star Wars” program.

The Trump administration has said it plans to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, on the grounds Moscow is flouting it. Russia though says it is in compliance, and that Washington is in fact in violation.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alastair Macdonald

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