KIEV, Ukraine — Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma said Thursday that Ukraine should declare itself a nuclear state and temporarily keep part of the ex-Soviet nuclear arsenal, deputies at a closed parliamentary session said.
One senior deputy said the prime minister, whose speech was applauded by the more than 300 deputies, told the chamber that Ukraine should not hope for any compensation or security guarantees in exchange for giving up the former Soviet missiles.
Another deputy quoted the premier, for 10 years head of the world's largest missile plant, as saying that Ukraine has all the technical means it needs to maintain the missiles.
The prime minister's statement, made during a debate on ratification of a treaty on cutting strategic nuclear arms, put him at odds with Ukraine's president and its foreign minister. They have unequivocally called for Ukraine to rid itself of its remaining share of the Soviet-era nuclear arsenal.
It will also complicate Kiev's ties with Washington, which has grown increasingly annoyed with delays in ratifying the nuclear arms and non-proliferation treaties that are to enshrine Ukraine's status as a non-nuclear state.