Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Obstacles Seen to Kiev's Disarmament

KIEV -- President Leonid Kravchuk's commitment to dismantle the entire Ukrainian nuclear arsenal faces serious hurdles before it can be implemented despite U.S. promises of financial aid and security guarantees, lawmakers and analysts said Thursday.

Four parliamentary commissions have spent the last few days examining the accord, while the government has been using every opportunity to pressure parliament to accept the agreement, signed in Moscow on Jan. 15.

The accord commits Ukraine to give up ownership rights to the 176 nuclear missiles on its soil and was seen as a major victory for both U.S. and Russian policy in the region.

The agreement, however, appears to have no legally binding force. Kravchuk has said it does not require parliament's ratification, but he has nevertheless presented it to the parliament's presidium, where it now languishes in the hands of parliament chairman Ivan Plyush.

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, Boris Tarasyuk, said Wednesday that the supreme Rada, or parliament, as Ukraine's sovereign body, must support the accord by either specifically endorsing it or by voting through a series of treaties.

The most important treaty that the parliament has refused to ratify is the Nonproliferation Treaty, which would bind Ukraine to a nuclear free status.

"The government is holding intensive consultations with the parliament," Tarasyuk said. "We consider this treaty to be in Ukraine's vital interests."

Tarasyuk repeated warnings that the missiles need to be deactivated because of their age and servicing requirements, an argument that the president has used to force the issue with parliament.

"The working life of some of them will expire this year. This process is only going to accelerate next year," he said.

However, the lobbying by Tarasyuk and other government members may not be sufficient to persuade a majority of deputies. Igor Derkach, a member of parliament's defense committee, said presidential plans to present the treaty had been delayed because Kravchuk could not yet control enough votes.

"He's scared that we're going to say no to the agreement," said Derkach, adding that debate on the accord had been delayed three times.

The nationalist lobby is standing by its argument that Ukraine cannot sign the treaty because it is, de facto, a nuclear state.

The good news for the government is that some leading moderate politicians, such as former prime minister, Leonid Kuchma, seem to have been won over to the accord. Whether that moderate support will be enough is an open question.

Should the accord make it through parliament, either this week or next month, there will be further hurdles.

Some lawmakers are suggesting that the entire issue be postponed until after parliamentary elections in two months' time. These, analysts say, present another potential block to the agreement.

If Ukraine follows Russian voting patterns, it will elect a highly nationalist parliament. More likely, according to diplomats and analysts, the country will electorally split between Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, which would favor some kind of integration with Russia, and a firmly anti-Russian western Ukraine, a scenario envisaged by a U.S. intelligence report warning of Ukraine's breakup, details of which were published this week.

The potential for conflict in Crimea, where a second round of presidential elections Sunday are expected to produce an ethnic Russian nationalist as president, also overshadows any improved relations between the Russian and Ukrainian governments.