Ukraine must join NATO quickly: Yushchenko

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Ukraine must join NATO quickly: Yushchenko

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The Ukrainian President has said his country must join NATO quickly.

Viktor Yushchenko was speaking in Kiev at celebrations to mark the 17th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the former Soviet Union.

Against the backdrop of the recent armed conflict which saw Russian troops sweeping into neighbouring Georgia, the president said membership of the alliance is vital to Ukraine’s security.

Yushchenko also spoke of the need to increase Ukraine’s own defence capabilities saying “Only these steps will guarantee our security and the integrity of our borders.”

The sight of Russian military action on Georgian soil undoubtedly unnerved the Ukrainian president, along with the leaders of many other former Soviet republics.

Ukraine backed Georgia, and was angry that Russia used ships moored in the Ukrainian Black Sea to land troops on Georgian soil.

Kiev leases the port of Sevastopol to the Russian Navy, a contract which runs out in 2017.

Yushchenko tightened the rules regarding the movement of the fleet stationed in the pro-Crimean region, and for some days there were fears of a standoff between the two countries.

There were pro- and anti-Russian demonstrations as the first warship returned to port following the Georgian action.