Ukraine Long Way From NATO - Russian Envoy

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine is a long way from joining NATO at the moment, Russia's envoy to the Western military bloc said on Monday.

Dmitry Rogozin

"We judge on an official statement by Ukraine's new president, who said the issue is not high on the country's political agenda," Dmitry Rogozin said speaking live on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Viktor Yanukovych, who is set to be sworn in as president on February 25, has vowed to restore ties with traditional ally Russia that strained as the now outgoing leader Viktor Yushchenko had sought to bring the ex-Soviet state into NATO and the European Union.

Rogozin said if the NATO issue arose in Ukraine under Yanukovych, it would be decided at a referendum, but the idea enjoys a weak popular support in the fellow Slavic nation.

"Ukraine is an extremely long way from NATO membership today," Rogozin said, but acknowledged that forces pushing for the membership in the alliance were strong in the country.

Speaking about the bloc's eastward expansion to include former Soviet and Eastern bloc nations, Rogozin said NATO "has reached its natural boundaries and moving further would trigger turbulences in our relations."

Source: RIA Novosti