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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Last Missile Leaves 'Nuclear Free' Ukraine

combined reports

KIEV -- President Leonid Kuchma has announced that Ukraine is completely nuclear free, having shipped to Russia its entire nuclear arsenal inherited from the Soviet Union.

Ukraine had promised to get rid of its nuclear weapons by June 1996 in exchange for economic aid from Russia and the United States, under an agreement signed by the three countries in January 1994.

The arsenal included about 2,000 warheads.

On Monday in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, soldiers from central and eastern Europe joined those from the United States for the first big multilateral peacekeeping operation to be held in the former Soviet Union.

"Five years ago we hardly could imagine this joint exercise," U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry told reporters in Lviv.

Perry, who arrived in Ukraine on Monday, welcomed Ukraine's announcement that the last nuclear missile had left the country.

Peace Shield-96 involves troops from 10 countries, including some 600 soldiers from Russia and Ukraine and about 150 from the United States.

Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, also in Lviv for the exercises, told a press conference that international military cooperation within the Partnership for Peace program was of enormous importance, Interfax reported.

But Grachev stated that NATO's Partnership for Peace program and its plans for eastward expansion are incompatible. "I don't know whether Ukraine would like to join NATO," he said. "But Russia has its position on the issue, which is well known."