Ukraine secretly ramps up ties with NATO: report

21st June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine is ramping up cooperation with NATO, dealing a blow to Moscow's hopes that its neighbour would align itself closer to Russia under President Viktor Yanukovych, a report said on Tuesday.

The Kommersant daily, citing a confidential document outlining cooperation between Ukraine and the military bloc for the current year, said Yanukovych sought closer ties with NATO even more stoutly than his openly pro-Western predecessor Viktor Yushchenko.

The dramatic turnabout in Kiev's foreign policy comes despite Ukraine last year cementing in law its non-aligned status and amid disappointment over terms and conditions of rapprochement with the Kremlin, it said.

The confidential document approved earlier this year includes a schedule of 64 bilateral events, said the newspaper, adding that the two sides were set to discuss such sensitive issues like Ukraine's energy security, missile defence, and the future of Russia's Black Sea fleet based in Crimea.

Two meetings scheduled for June are set to address basic principles and strategy of Ukraine's foreign policy.

Yanukovych has worked hard to improve relations between Moscow and Kiev since defeating the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in presidential elections last year.

Later that year he signed a landmark deal with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to keep Russia's Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea at least until 2042 in exchange for a 30 percent discount on Russian gas exports to its neighbour.

But over the past months Kiev has grown disillusioned with the prospects of closer ties with Moscow which it says has tried to strong-arm Ukraine into joining the Russian-led customs union and threatened it with sanctions, the newspaper said.

"Moscow wants us to be in its orbit and pay for that too," a high-ranking source in the Ukrainian government told Kommersant. "It's not us who are pulling away from Russia. She is pushing us away."

Earlier this month Russia protested the arrival of a US Navy cruiser equipped with a ballistic missile defence system in the Black Sea to take part in naval exercises with Ukraine, saying it was a threat to its national security.

Ukraine's foreign ministry shot back saying the exercises did not present any "real or potential threat" for the countries of the Black Sea region.

© 2011 AFP

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