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Yanukovych Scraps NATO Body

KIEV — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has scrapped a state body set up to oversee the country's eventual accession to NATO, a presidential decree on his web site said Tuesday.

The move was in line with statements by Yanukovych that membership in the Western military alliance was no longer on the agenda, and it was certain to please Moscow, with which he is trying to establish warmer relations.

The decree said he had wound up a presidential commission for preparing Ukraine for membership in NATO — a body set up by his predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, who was on poor terms with Moscow.

A separate decree said Yanukovych had also closed down an allied body overseeing Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration. Though both bodies exerted little influence on political reality, the move by Yanukovych to shut them down seemed like a strong message to Moscow.

Yanukovych held closed-door talks with President Dmitry Medvedev at the Russian leader's Gorki residence outside Moscow on Monday.

"The dialogue with Russia has become a more comfortable one," said Mikhailo Pashkov, an analyst with the Razumkov Center. "Ukrainian entry into NATO is no longer on the agenda, above all because neither side is ready for it."

Ironically, some of the boldest moves in Ukraine's relations with NATO came when Yanukovych was prime minister under former President Leonid Kuchma in the early 2000s. NATO was allowed to set up an information center in Kiev to raise the profile of the alliance in Ukraine, and the first joint peacekeeping operations were undertaken.

A bill is expected to go to parliament soon to enshrine Ukraine's non-bloc status, but a 2003 law on national security that still foresees Ukraine's future within NATO remains in force.

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