Ukraine 'should remain nuclear'

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The Independent Online
KIEV (Reuter) - Ukraine's Prime Minister, Leonid Kuchma, said yesterday that Ukraine should declare itself a nuclear state and temporarily keep part of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal, according to deputies at a closed parliamentary session.

'Ukraine must confirm itself temporarily as a nuclear state,' one senior deputy quoted Mr Kuchma as saying during a long-delayed debate on ratification of the Start 1 treaty. He said the Prime Minister, whose speech was applauded, told MPs Ukraine should not hope for compensation or security guarantees in exchange for giving up the former Soviet missiles.

'Ukraine will be in the same position as the Soviet Union, which got all sorts of promises during the perestroika era and got nothing,' another senior deputy quoted Mr Kuchma as saying. One MP quoted the Prime Minister, who was for 10 years head of the world's largest missile plant, as saying that Ukraine had the technical means to maintain the missiles.

Mr Kuchma's statement put him at odds with Ukraine's President and its Foreign Minister, who have called for Ukraine to rid itself of its share of the Soviet nuclear arsenal. It will complicate Kiev's relations with the US, which has grown annoyed with delays in ratifying the Start 1 and Non-Proliferation treaties which are to enshrine Ukraine's status as a non-nuclear state.