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NATO defense ministers pledge to support Ukraine’s sovereignty

February 27, 2014, 1:19 UTC+3 BRUSSELS

"We welcome the fact that violence has been stopped through negotiations that paved the way for a peaceful outcome,” the statement said

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BRUSSELS, February 26, /ITAR-TASS/. NATO’s defense ministers on Wednesday issued a statement on the situation in Ukraine, where the president has been ousted in a violent uprising.

In the statement adopted after their meeting in Brussels, the ministers pledged to keep supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and stressed the importance of democratic processes.

“We continue to follow developments in Ukraine very closely. We deplore the tragic loss of life. We welcome the fact that violence has been stopped through negotiations that paved the way for a peaceful outcome,” the statement said.

“We emphasize the importance of an inclusive political process based on democratic values, respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law, which fulfils the democratic aspirations of the entire Ukrainian people,” it said.

Mass anti-government protests, which were underway in Ukraine since November 2013, when Ukraine’s authorities refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia, took a new turn February 18. The new riots eventually caused President Viktor Yanukovich to flee his residence outside Kiev.

The Ukrainian parliament appointed an interim head of state and set early presidential elections for May 25. Yanukovich called the developments “a coup.” His current whereabouts are unknown. Acting Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has said Yanukovich and other officials are on a wanted list for involvement in “mass murder” during protests.

According to Ukrainian Health Ministry data, 82 people have been killed and 787 have turned to Kiev’s medical institutions for help, with 527 of them hospitalized, since the start of the latest violence on February 18.

“NATO and Ukraine have a distinctive partnership, embodied in the NATO-Ukraine Commission. Through that partnership framework, NATO stands ready to continue to engage with Ukraine and assist with the implementation of reforms. Defense reform and military cooperation remain key priorities,” the NATO defense ministers said.

“We commend the Ukrainian armed forces for not intervening in the political crisis. In a democracy, it is imperative that the armed forces do not intervene in the political process. We underscore the need to strengthen democratic control over the defense and security sector, with effective parliamentary oversight and the robust involvement of civil society,” the statement said.

“In the context of recent tragic events, transparent democratic and accountable institutions are essential to the future of Ukraine. A sovereign, independent and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security,” it said.

“Consistent with the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine, NATO Allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe and on the continent as a whole,” the statement said.

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