Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and Verkhovna Rada Chairman Ivan Plyushch, in their meetings with the NATO envoys, expressed the cabinet’s and the new parliamentary majority’s commitment to Ukraine-NATO cooperation. These leaders and the chairmen of the Verkhovna Rada’s relevant committees seconded Kuchma’s view that such cooperation strengthens Ukraine’s political independence and military security while opening Ukraine’s door to the European and Euroatlantic political and economic space.
On March 2, at President Leonid Kuchma’s request, the Rada ratified the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), with its additional protocols. A key element in the NATO-Ukraine Partnership for Peace program, SOFA defines the legal status of NATO military units, individual soldiers and staff officers during their presence on Ukrainian territory for exercises and other joint activities. Ukraine had signed SOFA in 1996, but the Red leadership of the Verkhovna Rada had held up the ratification. The formation of a new, center-right majority in the wake of the reelection of President Leonid Kuchma paved the way for the overdue ratification. The vote was 228 in favor and 10 opposed; the parliament’s leftist side declined to vote. Ratification of this agreement will enable NATO to utilize fully the Yavoriv training range and other military installations in Ukraine, thereby assisting Ukraine’s own military modernization program.
On the same day the parliament voted, by a margin of 250 to 5, to ratify the Open Skies agreement, ratification of which had been held up for similar reasons. The ratification will enable Ukraine to become a full participant in Partnership for Peace and other bilateral and multilateral activities with NATO countries (NATO communiques [Kyiv and Brussels], M2 Communications, UNIAN, DINAU, March 1-3; see the Fortnight in Review, January 7, and the Monitor, December 23, 1999, January 31).
NEW PARLIAMENTARY GROUP FORMED BY LEFTIST DISSENTERS.