Yushchenko reassures Russia on defence

11:48, 13 June 2008
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Ukraine`s ambition to join NATO is not aimed at Moscow

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko tried to reassure Russia that his country`s ambition to join NATO is not aimed at Moscow, in an interview published Friday, according to AFP.

"We give our sovereign guarantee that Ukrainian territory will not be used against Russia," Yushchenko said in an interview published in the French Catholic daily La Croix.

"Our constitution prohibits the presence of foreign troops on our territory," he said, adding that Ukraine`s desire to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) "isn`t directed against someone, but by our national priorities."

Yushchenko also noted that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons 15 years ago.

In April, NATO turned down Ukraine`s application for a Membership Action Plan -- a stepping stone to joining the alliance -- but did say the former Soviet republic would eventually become a member.

Moscow has long opposed the expansion of NATO to include Ukraine, which hosts Russia`s Black Sea fleet, as an encroachment into its sphere of influence and a threat to its security.

AFP

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