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Timoshenko announces start of preparations for NATO accession referendum

Batkivshchina party is planning to collect 3 million signatures required for initiating a referendum

KIEV, August 30 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko said on Saturday her Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party would soon initiate a nationwide referendum on the country’s accession to NATO.

She said the party would submit the necessary papers to the Central Electoral Commission before the end of the day so that the referendum could be held simultaneously with the early parliamentary elections slated for October 26.

“The Batkivshchina party made the decision to begin today all procedures that are required for holding a referendum on accession to NATO on the day of the pre-term elections to the Verkhovna Rada [parliament],” Timoshenko said in a statement posted on the party’s official website.

The party is planning to collect 3 million signatures required for initiating a referendum.

On Friday, a bill abolishing Ukraine’s non-bloc status was registered in the national parliament. The bill also resumes the process of accession to NATO.

The bill amends the laws on the basic principles of Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policy and on the basic principles of Ukraine’s national security and creates a legislative framework for the country’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic security space and for protecting territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The bill also forbids Ukraine to join any alliances other than the European Union.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting earlier in the day that Ukraine would seek NATO membership. Only several months earlier, he stated that “the question of membership in the alliance is not on the agenda now” and “we are talking about cooperation and technical support in order upgrade the army”.

“We are submitting a draft law to parliament that cancels the non-bloc status. This charts the way for Ukraine to become a member of NATO,” he said.

Ukraine signed the Charter on Distinctive Partnership with NATO in 1997 and began to take steps towards joining the alliance five years later, setting 2008 as the target date for joining the Western military bloc.

Ukraine joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme in 1994. NATO defines the programme as allowing Euro-Atlantic partner countries to build individual relationships with the bloc, choosing their own priorities for co-operation.

The process of accession to NATO was halted in 2010 when the then president Viktor Yanukovich pushed through a law declaring the non-bloc status and giving up plans to join the organisation.

Yanukovich said that non-block status would allow his country to develop cooperation with all countries.

“The non-bloc status of Ukraine will enable us to develop equal and pragmatic cooperation with other countries on the basis of national interests, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said back then.

The law giving Ukraine its non-bloc status was passed by the parliament on July 1, 2010.

Yanukovich said that Ukraine would stay clear of military blocs, while taking part in NATO’s peacekeeping operations and participation in the Partnership for Peace programme.

NATO leaders stressed earlier that an independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security.

They also recalled their decisions in relation to Ukraine and Open Door policy stated at the Bucharest and Lisbon Summits, and stressed that NATO was ready to continue to develop its cooperation with Ukraine and assist with the implementation of reforms in the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the Annual National Programme (ANP).

The Annual National Programme is the main executive document providing the framework for short-and medium-term cooperation with NATO.