Ukraine Hosts NATO Member Countries For International Military Exercise

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea -- NATO countries on Friday sent navy ships to Ukraine's Black Sea port of Sevastopol for a military exercise, the first after a month-long anti-NATO protest forced the cancellation of U.S.-Ukrainian maneuvers.

The four-day Blackseafor exercises involve NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, as well as Russia and Ukraine, said naval spokesman Yuriy Kulik.

In May, the arrival of U.S. Marine reservists to make improvements at a training facility in preparation for planned Black Sea maneuvers sparked daily protests.

The Americans left after being unable to carry out the work, and the exercises were canceled.

Last week, Ukraine's parliament agreed to allow foreign troops into the country to participate in training exercises - an apparent nod to President Viktor Yushchenko for his decision to approve his political rival, Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the pro-Russian Party of Regions, for the premiership.

Yushchenko wants Ukraine to join NATO, but the alliance remains deeply unpopular here, particularly in the largely Russian-speaking east and south.

As part of an agreement reached between Yushchenko and Yanukovych, Ukraine will put any decision to join the alliance to a public vote.

Source: AP