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IANS

Allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) agreed to further beef up its forces on its eastern flank near Ukraine but it has no intention of sending troops into Ukraine, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

NATO did not have combat troops inside Ukraine and it "had no intention of deploying NATO troops to Ukraine," Stoltenberg on Thursday told the press after an extraordinary meeting of the North Atlantic Council.

NATO's response came as Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday authorised "a special military operation" in the Donbas region, and Ukraine confirmed that military targets across the country were under attack, Xinhua news agency reported.

"We call on Russia to immediately cease its military action, withdraw its forces from Ukraine, and choose diplomacy," said the NATO Secretary-General.

Putin said in a televised speech to the country earlier on Thursday that Russia's plans "do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories".

"We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force," the Russian President said, noting that Russia's move is in response to "fundamental threats" of NATO which has expanded to eastern Europe and brought its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders.

Earlier, NATO's Ambassadors said in a statement they had decided "in line with our defensive planning to protect all allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance".

"We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the alliance, as well as additional maritime assets," they added.

"We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies."

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