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The State Duma Wednesday slammed Ukraine's plans to join NATO
The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, Wednesday slammed Ukraine's plans to join NATO and expressed concern over recent events in the country's largely Russian-speaking south. A wave of anti-NATO protests has seized the Crimea, a region on the Black Sea, after a U.S. cargo vessel called at the port of Feodosia in late May ahead of an exercise, Sea Breeze-2006, with the United States. Many assumed the move was part of Kiev's bid to join the North Atlantic alliance. "With due respect for Ukraine's sovereignty, the deputies of the State Duma cannot but confirm their extremely negative attitude towards such plans and believe that Ukraine's joining NATO contradicts the agreement on friendship, cooperation and partnership between Russia and Ukraine dating from 1997 that states the strategic nature of Russian-Ukrainian relations," the State Duma said in a letter to Ukraine's parliament, the Supreme Rada. "The deputies of the State Duma are deeply concerned over the recent dangerous development of events in Crimea, which seriously threatens traditionally friendly relations between Russia and Ukraine," the statement said. The deputies also said that, in addition to the large number of Russian-speaking people who live in Crimea, Russia's Black Sea Fleet was stationed in the region under intergovernmental agreements. "Close interregional relations unite us [Russia] with the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," the statement said. Russia's Black Sea Fleet currently uses a range of naval facilities in the Ukrainian region of Crimea under a 1997 agreement that allowed Russia to continue its presence in its neighboring former Soviet republic for rent of $93 million per year. Andrei Kokoshin, the head of State Duma's committee on CIS affairs and contacts with Russians abroad, said copies of the statement would also be sent to the parliamentary assemblies of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the world's largest regional security organization.
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