Ukraine official criticizes U.S. plan to deploy missile defense system
First Deputy Prime Minister says it is a threat for Ukraine
Senior Ukrainian official criticized U.S. plans to deploy its missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic in comments released Monday.
"First of all missiles deployed near our territory are objects for attack by any sides. So it is a threat to involve Ukraine in a direct conflict," First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said according to his office.
Washington announced last month that it wants to put a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile interceptor site in Poland.
Last week, a top U.S. general in charge of developing U.S. missile defenses said that the United States was looking for ways to involve Ukraine in its plans to develop such a system in Europe. But the Ukrainian government said that it had no plans to deploy the U.S. missile defense system in its country.
Russia, meanwhile, has harshly criticized the U.S. plans to build missile defense sites in Central Europe, shrugging off U.S. assurances that the installations would be meant to deal with a potential threat from Iran and calling them an effort to strengthen U.S. military might in the region.
Azarov said that the issue will not help supporters of NATO membership for Ukraine to achieve their aim.
Ukraine has been divided over the issue of possible NATO membership, with Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko backing the move and pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych opposing it.
Most Ukrainians, particularly in the largely Russian-speaking east and south, remain deeply skeptical of the alliance.