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BRUSSELS, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Russian forces are engaged in direct military operations inside Ukraine in a blatant violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday.
He also said NATO would fully respect any decision by the Ukrainian parliament to put the country on a path to joining the U.S.-led Western military alliance.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said earlier his government would ask parliament to abandon Ukraine's non-aligned status and set the country on a course to seek to become a member of NATO.
"Despite Moscow's hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and south-eastern Ukraine," Rasmussen told reporters after NATO ambassadors held an emergency meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart at Kiev's request.
"This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilise Ukraine as a sovereign nation," he added.
"Russian forces are engaged in direct military operations inside Ukraine...Russia continues to maintain thousands of combat-ready troops close to Ukraine's borders. This is a blatant violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It defies all diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution," he said. (Reporting by Adrian Croft, Editing by Martin Santa)