MOSCOW — Russia on Tuesday denounced Ukraine's moves to join NATO and said it would review its military strategy in the face of expected NATO plans to establish a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe.
The stand appeared certain to ratchet up tensions between Moscow and NATO ahead of a meeting of alliance leaders in Wales on Thursday and Friday, when NATO is expected to endorse the creation of a military force of some 4,000 troops capable of moving on only about eight hours' notice.
In Kiev, a Ukrainian military spokesman said 15 more service members were killed in the past 24 hours in fighting with pro-Russian separatists backed by Russian military forces.
Russian troops have been spotted in the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as other places in eastern Ukraine, according to the spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow that Ukraine's moves to join NATO were undermining efforts to end the war there. He called on Washington to use its influence to "talk sense" to Ukraine.
Lavrov said Kiev sought to join NATO shortly after a meeting of the Russian and Ukrainian leaders in Belarus to seek to resolve the conflict.
Earlier, Mikhail Popov, deputy head of Russia's advisory security council, said, "The fact that the military infrastructure of NATO member states is getting closer to our borders, including via enlargement, will preserve its place as one of the external threats" to Russia.
In an interview with the news agency RIA Novosti, Popov said NATO was "aggravating tensions with Russia" and cited that as a key factor in determining Moscow's military strategy.
At the same time, Moscow has stepped up its harsh rhetoric. A leaked report said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said President Vladimir Putin told him that Russia could take over Kiev "in two weeks" if it wished.
Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign policy adviser, said the Russian leader's statement on Kiev was "taken out of context and carried a completely different meaning."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.