Robertson warns Kiev to embrace reforms

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The Independent Online

The Secretary General of Nato issued a veiled warning to the Ukrainian government yesterday that military cooperation with the West depended on Kiev's respect for human rights.

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen's comments underlined the acute unease in the West at the scandal that unfolded after the discovery of the headless corpse of a Ukrainian journalist, Georgi Gongadze, in a forest near Kiev last November.

The Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, was implicated in the assassination by the emergence of tapes purporting to be a recording of him ordering the journalist's death. Mr Kuchma denied the authenticity of the tapes.

Yesterday Lord Robertson held talks in the Ukrainian capital with Mr Kuchma and, while not mentioning the Gongadze case specifically, stressed the importance of media freedom and other basic human rights. Nato has been keen to avoid a direct confrontation because of Ukraine's strategic position because it fosters links with Nato and Moscow.

Lord Robertson told The Independent: "We are in the business not just of dealing with military co-operation but trying to create a community of values – and media freedom is one of the critical areas."

In a calibrated performance, Lord Robertson later highlighted improved cooperation between Ukraine and Nato, whose supreme allied commander, Atlantic, hosted a seminar in Kiev yesterday.

At the seminar, Lord Robertson offered a blend of carrot and stick, in an attempt to convince Kiev's decision-makers of the benefits of a Western orientation.