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NATO's eastern expansion has stopped short - Russian envoy

MOSCOW, August 6 (RIA Novosti) - NATO is unlikely to continue its eastern expansion into former Soviet territory, Russia's envoy to the alliance said on Thursday.

Russia has repeatedly criticized NATO's efforts to bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance, saying such a development would destabilize Europe. Moscow has also accused NATO of encouraging Georgia to engage in acts of military aggression by providing military and political support.

"I believe that the process of NATO's eastern expansion has now broken down," Dmitry Rogozin told the news channel Vesti.

"It can continue its quiet march and expand further, but I don't think there will be any more brazen offenses on Russia's borders."

Rogozin said Russia would continue to cooperate with NATO, despite the alliance's support for Tbilisi during the Georgia-Russia war a year ago.

He said the problem over Russia's objections to Georgia's NATO membership plans was essentially solved "with the help of [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili... and with the help of his thirst for solving various problems through the use of force, military action, and blood."

Earlier on Thursday, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Georgia could not regain the trust of its neighbors until it signs a non-violence treaty with its former republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"Despite the failure of their irresponsible venture last August, Tbilisi's authorities, it would appear, have no intention of abandoning their plans to restore Georgia's territorial integrity through use of force," Nesterenko told reporters in Moscow.

"We therefore insist that they take on a legal obligation on the non-use of force. Georgia must take on this obligation unconditionally, not with respect to Russia, but to its neighboring republics - South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Only in this way can Tbilisi restore even a minimal level of trust among its neighbors and the international community."

Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after last summer's war. Most residents of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have held Russian citizenship for several years.

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