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Ukraine: Defense Minister Says Kyiv Has Right To Join NATO

Kyiv, 16 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian Defence Minister Alexander Kuzmuk is quoted today as saying that he could envisage his country becoming part of NATO.

Russia's Interfax news agency quotes Kuzmuk as saying that "every sovereign state" has the right to join whatever alliance it sees fit.

The report follows a statement yesterday by the head of Ukraine's Security Council, Volodymr Horbulin, that he would like to see Ukraine become a NATO member by the year 2010.

Horbulin's statement was one of the first by a Ukrainian official that Kyiv would like to join the military organization. Horbulin had returned from Brussels where he said he had discussed specific security guarantees with officials at NATO headquarters.

Recent moves toward unification by Russia and Belarus have raised fears among Ukrainians about their own independence. Ukraine shares a border and ethnic and religious ties with both countries.