Ukraine rips up key cooperation deals with Russia

Dmitry Zaks
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A Transdniestr police officer looks across the border into Ukraine at the Kuchurgan-Pervomaysk crossing on April 15, 2014

A Transdniestr police officer looks across the border into Ukraine at the Kuchurgan-Pervomaysk crossing on April 15, 2014 (AFP Photo/Daniel Mihailescu)

Kiev (AFP) - Kiev lawmakers on Thursday annulled five crucial security agreements with Moscow that had allowed Russia to transport troops to a separatist region of Moldova and purchase weapons that are only produced in Ukraine.

The deals were suspended when Kiev accused the Kremlin of fomenting a pro-Russian revolt in Ukraine's industrial east 13 months ago that has killed 6,250 and left the ex-Soviet state's economy in ruins.

But Thursday's decision means that legislative support from Ukraine's dominant nationalist and pro-European parties would be required before such cooperation could resume once the separatist conflict is resolved.

It also underscores how little a truce deal reached in February has done to rebuild trust between Moscow and Kiev.

"I know of no other country that continues to be friends with a neighbour that kills your people," prominent pro-EU deputy Mustafa Nayyem wrote on Facebook.

"And only recently I learned that we still have international agreements with Russia concerning military and technological cooperation!"

The five laws include a strategic agreement allowing Moscow to send peacekeeping forces across Ukraine to Moldova's Russian-speaking Transdniester region.

A top Ukrainian state security official told AFP that the transports' abrupt interruption had caught Moscow off guard when they first went into effect about a year ago.

The same source said Moscow has since found new avenues by which to supply troops in the self-declared state.

But several senior Russian officials signalled their alarm at the sudden complication.

"There is no other way for us reach (Transdniester) other than through Ukraine," an unnamed diplomat in Russia's foreign ministry told Interfax.

"We have to think and look for alternatives. We cannot abandon Transdniester and Moldova," the Russian parliament's defence committee head Vladimir Komoyedov added.

A second politically-charged agreement cancelled by Kiev required the neighbours to protect each others' state secrets. It was initially adopted with the arrival of one-time spy Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in 2000.

- Burned bridges -


Another law covered basic Russian military transports across Ukraine and a fourth concerned mutual arms purchases.

Ukraine inherited several huge Soviet-era arms manufacturing sites that formed the backbone of Russia's armed forces.

The final law covered intelligence sharing between the two sides.

"Many Ukrainians must have learned with some surprise today that these laws were still around," Kiev's Razumkov Centre analyst Oleksiy Melnyk told AFP.

Ukraine's Western allies have encouraged parliament to spend less time on populist -- and often little-more than symbolic -- measures and to focus instead on the numerous laws needed to get the recession-hit economy back on track.

Rafts of nationalist legislation adopted since this chamber's November election have only stoked the virulent anti-Ukrainian passions of Russia's state media and senior ministers.

But some analysts said Thursday's legislation meant that crucial links that tied Moscow and Kiev over the past two decades have been ruptured for many years to come.

Pro-Russian legislators that supported these laws at the expense of closer links with NATO and the European Union were trounced in the November election and at present appear a longshot at making a comeback in the 2019 parliamentary vote.

"The chances of Ukraine and Russia resuming the type of military and technological cooperation that they enjoyed just a few years ago appear highly unlikely in the mid-term perspective," independent military analyst Mykhaylo Pashkov said in an interview.

"Russia's foreign policy approach is also unlikely to change under Putin," he added. "There is little chance that he will take a benevolent view of Ukraine in the next few years."

Pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko has pledged to adopt all the reforms needed for Ukraine to join the European Union by 2020.