NATO support democracy in Ukraine

Feb. 22, 2013 at 10:45 AM

BRUSSELS, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance was committed to helping Ukraine reinforce its democratic principles.

Rasmussen met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev Friday in Brussels. Both sides signed off on measures meant to ensure further cooperation in the defense sector.

In particular, Ukraine agreed to contribute military equipment to NATO operations meant to thwart piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Rasmussen added the alliance was keen to help Ukraine improve its defense sector as well as set up a trust fund to help Kiev get rid of radioactive material from Soviet-era military sites.

"We are also committed to supporting Ukraine's other reform efforts," he said in a statement. "In particular, the determined implementation of reforms to reinforce democracy and the rule of law would benefit the people of Ukraine and the whole Euro-Atlantic community."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych heads to Brussels next week for the 16th annual bilateral summit. Both sides are negotiating the conditions for a shared partnership.

The European Union said a partnership agreement could be signed at a November conference in Lithuania if "tangible progress" is made in selective justice and international election standards.

The European Union said October parliamentary elections in Ukraine were a step backward in terms of democratic progress.

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