Ukrainian Radar 'No' Ukrainian Parts 'Yes'

The State Duma on Friday voted to stop using Soviet-built military radar systems in Ukraine because of Kiev's bid to join NATO.

At the same time, lawmakers extended another deal that calls on Ukraine to help maintain Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles -- a move reflecting strong military industrial ties between the two former Soviet republics.

The Duma voted 388-58 with one abstention to scrap the 1997 agreement with Ukraine that allowed Russia to use data from radar stations located near the western town of Mukachevo and the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. The huge facilities were part of a Soviet early warning system intended to spot missile launches.

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said the Ukrainian leadership's push for NATO membership had prompted the military to reconsider the agreement.

Pankov also told lawmakers that the sites were past their designated lifetime and had become too costly to maintain. He said the facilities had become increasingly unreliable and could produce faulty information on missile launches.

Pankov said Russia had built a new early warning radar site near St. Petersburg and would soon commission another near the southern city of Armavir.

The Communist Party faction opposed the move, saying the decision would strain ties with Ukraine and hurt Russia's security.

"With this decision, we are literally pushing Ukraine to join NATO," Communist deputy Anatoly Lokot said.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Parliament Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk signed a formal request asking for Ukraine's bid for the Membership Action Plan to be considered at a NATO meeting in Romania in April -- a crucial step on the road to joining the alliance.

NATO membership is a highly controversial issue in Ukraine, where opinion polls show that over half of the country opposes it. Pro-Western Yushchenko, however, has declared joining NATO a priority.

Ukraine's NATO bid faces strong opposition from Russia, which has been angered by NATO's eastward expansion and deployments close to its borders and argues that the alliance is a Cold War relic that should be replaced by other international security arrangements.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned earlier this month that Ukraine's bid to join NATO would affect the bilateral military-technical cooperation.

Russia has continued to rely on Ukraine's military-industrial complex for supplies of spare parts for Soviet-designed weapons. Underlining this dependence, the Duma on Friday voted 446-0 to ratify an agreement envisioning Ukraine supplying components for the SS-18 Satan missiles, the heaviest nuclear weapons in the Russian military's arsenals.

During Soviet times, the missiles were manufactured by Ukraine's Yuzhmash missile factory in eastern Ukraine.

"It will help strengthen the positions of our allies -- defense plant workers in Ukraine," United Russia deputy Sergei Markov said during Friday's debates.

Most residents of Ukraine's Russian-speaking east oppose Yushchenko's bid for NATO membership.