Ukraine will continue its involvement in NATO`s peacekeeping operations, the country`s prime minister said Thursday, according to RIA Novosti.

      Viktor Yanukovych said earlier today his country should pursue a policy that will not hinder Russia`s relations with NATO and the European Union.

      "Ukraine favors deepening the current level of cooperation with NATO, which is based on intensive dialogue," Viktor Yanukovych said. "Ukraine will continue taking part in peacekeeping operations under the aegis of NATO."

      He also said the Ukrainian public should be better informed about the positive aspects of Euro-Atlantic integration.

      "As far as the final decision to become a NATO member state is concerned, it will be made after a nationwide referendum," he said.

      Relations between the former Soviet neighbors have deteriorated in recent years as the western-leaning government that came to power in the wake of protests known as the "Orange Revolution" seeks to join the European Union, and in the longer run NATO.

      The latter objective has particularly displeased Russia, anxious about the approach of NATO bases closer to its borders.

      Yanukovych said it was necessary to convince Ukrainians that the prospect of the country joining NATO was not aimed at Russia.

      "Today we have no alternative to the strategy which Ukraine chose in its relations with NATO," the premier said. "It is important that Ukraine participate in the formation of a new European security system."

      NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said active NATO-Ukrainian partnership will develop further. He added he was satisfied with Ukraine`s support of NATO`s peacekeeping operations.