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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gates Goes From Russia to Ukraine

KIEV -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Kiev on Sunday for talks on missile defense, Turkey and Afghanistan a week after holding tough talks in Russia on the same divisive issues.

Gates came to Kiev to attend meetings of the Southeast European Defense Ministers, a 12-nation group created in 1996, at Washington's initiative, to promote security cooperation in the volatile Balkans and to facilitate cooperation with NATO.

Gates also was holding talks with top Ukrainian government officials to sound them out on Russia and to assess political developments in this country, which is struggling to emerge from prolonged political turmoil.

Gates arrived Sunday for his first visit since he was CIA director in 1992. The last U.S. defense secretary to visit was Donald Rumsfeld in 2004.

Later in the week, Gates is to hold talks with government officials in Prague on the state of negotiations with Washington on a missile defense plan to place a radar station in the Czech Republic.

In meetings on Oct. 12 in Moscow, senior officials urged Gates to freeze the missile defense talks with the Czech Republic and Poland, but Gates said the negotiations would proceed. The talks with Poland are for placing 10 U.S. missile interceptors there, linked to the station in the Czech Republic.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Gates is scheduled to attend a NATO defense ministers conference in the Netherlands, where another irritant to Moscow will be on the agenda: the prospect of yet another expansion of NATO, to include Croatia, Albania and Macedonia. No decision is expected until NATO leaders meet in Romania in April.

Gates was meeting with his counterparts from Croatia, Albania and Macedonia in Kiev on Sunday to discuss progress they have made toward satisfying NATO requirements for earning an invitation to join the alliance.

He also planned a one-on-one session in Kiev with his Turkish counterpart, Vecdi Gonul, amid growing tension over the inability of U.S. and Iraqi government forces to halt Kurdish rebel attacks inside Turkey.