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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Sets Date for Partnership

Hoping to allay concerns about Russia's commitment to Partnership for Peace, a senior diplomat affirmed Tuesday that the country plans to join the NATO program this month.

"Russia presumably will sign a framework agreement on April 21," said Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin. "That will be the date of our joining the program."

Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev will travel to Brussels for a signing ceremony at the headquarters of the 16-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Churkin said.

It was Moscow's clearest statement yet on Partnership for Peace. Comments last week by President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman raised doubts about its intentions to join in late April as planned.

Yeltsin spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov had said the president would approve joining only "on the basis of a broad public consensus" and that reaching such a consensus may take several months.

In Brussels, a NATO spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday said the organization had not been officially informed about Russia's intended signing date but remained hopeful it will occur this month.

Hardliners and many other Russians remain suspicious of NATO, a prime adversary of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, and think Partnership for Peace is designed to take advantage of Russia and weaken it.

Kozyrev and other officials have clarified that Russia will only sign a framework agreement in late April and that discussions of its role in the program could take months.

"It might take six to eight months to fill the agreement with substance," Churkin told reporters.

Partnership for Peace would allow former Soviet-led Warsaw Pact members to take part in peacekeeping, military exercises and other NATO activities without being members.

Churkin said Kozyrev will present NATO with a paper outlining Russia's views on its participation.

"The program not only has clear political importance, it also has a practical importance which directly corresponds with the interests of Russia and its armed forces," Churkin said.

Answering critics, he said Partnership for Peace would allow Moscow to cooperate more closely with the U.S.-led alliance and therefore gain some influence over its decisions.

But he said it would not drag Russia into automatically supporting NATO policies and activities.