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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ukraine PM pushes for Nato membership, protesters block 'Sea Breeze' joint exercises

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- At a recent press conference in Riga, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said that he would have the NATO membership plan for Ukraine ready before the NATO members assemble there in November.

During recent parliamentary elections the Ne Tak Bloc spent massively on an anti-NATO membership campaign. Recent polls indicate that if a national poll were held today, no more than 20 percent of the electorate would vote in favor of NATO membership.

Now anti-NATO protests have spread to Crimea, where 200 "Pro-ryv" pro-Russian youth organization activists threatened to block the Simferopol airport. The protesters claimed that a NATO airplane was to land there with 150 troops on board.

Adding to the debate, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry confirmed that there are U.S. military engineers in Ukraine.

Ukraine's Channel 5 television station reported on June 2 that protestors in Feodosiya are blockading a U.S. military cargo shipment of several dozen containers with firearms, military hardware and building materials deposited there last weekend by the USS Advantage for use in the annual U.S.-Ukrainian Sea Breeze joint military exercises.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said, "The Sea Breeze joint exercises are part of cooperation between the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense. These are bilateral exercises designed to raise the combat efficiency of Ukraine's armed forces and they have nothing to do with NATO."

Earlier this year Ukraine's parliament banned foreign military forces from joining Ukrainians in exercises, and it would have to revoke the prohibition for six planned war-games to go ahead.

Seventeen nations are slated to participate in "Sea Breeze - 2006." Ukraine has been participating in the exercises since 1997.
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