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Yanukovich kills Ukraine's bid to join NATO

Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovich has scrapped Ukraine's plans to join the Western military alliance, dissolving the commissions on European and NATO integration established after the Orange Revolution.

By Correspondent / April 6, 2010

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich chairs the National Security and Defence Council in Kiev April 6, 2010. Yanukovich has scrapped a state body set up to oversee the country's eventual accession to NATO, a presidential decree on his website said Tuesday.

Andriy Mosienko/REUTERS/Pool



Ukraine's once deeply controversial bid to join NATO appears to have died a little-noticed bureaucratic death this week, as incoming President Viktor Yanukovich moved to abolish a commission that had been overseeing the country's preparations for eventual entry into the Western military alliance.

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Monday's presidential decree scrapping the commission came as Mr. Yanukovich was meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev amid his second official visit to Moscow since being elected in February. Another commission, whose brief was to promote Euro-Atlantic integration, was cut along with a few dozen other advisory state bodies associated with the Western-leaning former president Viktor Yushchenko.

Experts say there's little surprise in the action, since Yanukovich was elected, at least partly, on a platform of repairing relations with Moscow, which had been so infuriated by Mr. Yushchenko's pro-NATO tilt that Russia refused to send an ambassador to Kiev for almost two years.

"It is definitely not the policy of Yanukovich to join NATO," says Oleksandr Sushko, research director of the independent Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kiev.

"Yanukovich's policy is not to move in any direction, but for Ukraine to be a kind of 'bridge' between East and West. The danger is that we are moving into a gray zone, where the security status of Ukraine will become ambiguous."

Moving West since 1991

Since Ukraine achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, most of its leaders have upheld a strategy of gradually integrating the France-sized country of 48 million into the European community of nations. But following the 2004 Orange Revolution, which brought Yushchenko to power pledging to put the country on a fast-track to NATO membership, the issue became a major wedge between Moscow and Kiev.

Though opinion polls over the years have shown Ukrainian majorities favor the idea of eventually joining the European Union, NATO membership has never commanded popular support.