Friday, October 16, 2009

Ukraine in talks to host part of US missile shield

Ukraine is in talks with Washington to host part of a US missile shield, Kiev's US envoy was quoted as saying Thursday, sparking concern from Russia, which has fiercely opposed similar plans. "This question is part of working discussion, but so far it is in a rather initial phase," Oleh Shamshur, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, was quoted by Interfax as saying in Kiev.

"We are talking about whether to use radars that are on Ukrainian territory and that Russia declined using," he said, adding that such a plan had the backing of Ukraine's leaders. The Pentagon issued a statement last week insisting no proposal had been made to station elements of the missile shield in Ukraine in an bid to sooth Russian concerns over reports that Kiev had voiced interest in such a plan.

Moscow welcomed a decision by President Barack Obama last month to shelve a proposal by the previous US administration to deploy anti-missile weaponry and a radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.

But the US State Department has since suggested that third countries including Ukraine could contribute to an early warning system under a new plan for sea-based interceptors to protect against possible missile threats from Iran. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov voiced concern Thursday over the United States cooperating with Ukraine on missile defence.

"We are closely monitoring the news that is generated as a result of these talks," Ryabkov told news agency ITAR TASS. "To say we feel concern over the reports we have heard would be to put it mildly." Moscow has been irked in recent years by US military ties with its former Soviet neighbors in Eastern Europe, an area it views as part of its historic sphere of influence.

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