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NATO chief begins first visit to Ukraine, opens joint emergency response exercise

  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talk to each other at the a city airport in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Stoltenberg arrived in Ukraine for a joint exercise by NATO and Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mikhail Palinchak, Pool)

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talk to each other at the a city airport in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Stoltenberg arrived in Ukraine for a joint exercise by NATO and Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mikhail Palinchak, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • A military unit greets Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Poroshenko met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Lviv as he arrived in Ukraine for a joint NATO Ukraine exercise. (AP Photo/Mikhail Palinchak, Pool)

    A military unit greets Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Lviv, western Ukraine, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Poroshenko met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Lviv as he arrived in Ukraine for a joint NATO Ukraine exercise. (AP Photo/Mikhail Palinchak, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Local residents hold Ukrainian and Crimean Tatars flags in the village of Chongar, Ukraine, on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. The radical Right Sector group and Pro-Kiev Crimean tartars leadership organized improvised checkpoints on all three roads connecting the Ukrainian mainland and Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, aiming to prevent trucks carrying goods to cross Russia-Ukraine border. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

    Local residents hold Ukrainian and Crimean Tatars flags in the village of Chongar, Ukraine, on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. The radical Right Sector group and Pro-Kiev Crimean tartars leadership organized improvised checkpoints on all three roads connecting the Ukrainian mainland and Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, aiming to prevent trucks carrying goods to cross Russia-Ukraine border. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)  (The Associated Press)

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg began his first visit to Ukraine Monday, meeting with President Petro Poroshenko and helping inaugurate a joint disaster response drill that Poroshenko hailed as more evidence of "enhancement of our special partnership with NATO."

NATO has expressed firm support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, but alliance member states, including the U.S., have declined its request for offensive weapons.

Ukrainian officials said 1,100 rescuers from 34 countries are taking part in the exercise. The drill, being held near Lviv in western Ukraine, is meant to test authorities' capacity to respond to a mine explosion and collapse and the resulting earth tremors.

During the two-day visit, Stoltenberg's first since becoming NATO chief in October 2014, he will also hold talks with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.