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Ukraine Paves Way for Further Disarmament

By Don Oberdorfer
The Washington Post


Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk said Thursday that all short-range nuclear missiles on his territory have been removed to Russian soil, paving the way for dismantlement of such atomic weapons by the end of the decade.

Kravchuk, who said Wednesday morning at the White House he had no such information, subsequently received a report from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense affirming that the transfer has been completed. According to authorities in Moscow, all short-range nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union are under Moscow's control.

The fate of Soviet short-range, or tactical, nuclear weapons has been of great international concern because of their large number -- estimated by the Pentagon at 17,000 -- and because their relatively small size and great mobility makes them susceptible to theft or diversion.

In a news conference at the National Press Club, Kravchuk said that some tactical nuclear weapons remain on the ships of the Black Sea fleet, the control of which is in dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko, who accompanied Kravchuk to Washington, said Ukraine has proposed that all nuclear weapons be removed from the Black Sea to make it a "zone of peace." Zlenko said the proposal had been endorsed by Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, who the Ukrainian leaders saw en route to Washington.

Regarding strategic nuclear weaponry, Kravchuk emphasized the need to destroy not just the nuclear warheads but the missiles that deliver them as well. Currently the only facilities for nuclear weapons dismantling and destruction are in Russian territory, but Kravchuck said Ukraine is ready to undertake this task if it receives technical and financial assistance. Kravchuk predicted that "we'll have some difficulties ahead" regarding destruction of the strategic nuclear weapons.

Under a joint statement issued by Presidents Bush and Kravchuk on Wednesday, Ukraine is committed to remove all strategic nuclear weapons from its territory "in accordance with relevant agreements" within seven years after ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Previously Ukraine had agreed to the dismantling of all strategic nuclear weapons on its territory much sooner, by the end of 1994.

A State Department official said the accord to eliminate the weapons by the end of the decade did not suggest any delay because Ukraine's previous commitments were included by reference to "relevant agreements," and that therefore its earlier deadline still stands. "The sooner the better," the official said.

Discussing the recent negotiations on nuclear issues, Foreign Minister Zlenko said Ukraine had originated the proposal that it formally join the START treaty as one of several successor states to the Soviet Union on nuclear weapons matters. He indicated that Washington had been initially reluctant, but eventually came to see that Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan should be "on an equal basis" with Russia and the United States as a treaty participant.

The result is the protocol to the START treaty approved by Bush and Kravchuk on Wednesday, which has been put before the other three nuclear weapons states of the former Soviet Union for approval. Secretary of State James A. Baker III discussed this issue in an international telephone call Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, the State Department said.