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.