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Ukraine Transfers Its Last Nuclear Warhead to Russia

June 02, 1996| From Reuters

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine became a nuclear-weapons-free nation Saturday with the transfer of the last of its warheads to Russia, President Leonid D. Kuchma said.

He called on other countries to scrap their nuclear armories.

"On June 1 we finished the process of transferring our strategic nuclear weapons from Ukraine," Kuchma said in a statement.

"The Ukrainian people, having suffered from the Chernobyl nuclear accident, are well acquainted with the potential disaster that nuclear weapons can bring.

"Ukraine calls on other nations to follow our path and to do everything to wipe nuclear weapons from the face of the earth as soon as possible."

An explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in April 1986 spewed radiation over much of Europe. Thirty-one people died in the immediate aftermath of the blast.

Ukraine, once the world's third nuclear power, has completed its part of a trilateral agreement signed by President Clinton, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin and former Ukrainian President Leonid M. Kravchuk on Jan. 14, 1994.

Ukraine had promised to get rid of about 2,000 nuclear weapons by this month in exchange for economic aid from Russia and the United States under the 1994 agreement.

However, officials had been warning that Ukraine might not have the money to complete the removal on time. Saturday's announcement came as a surprise.

Under the 1994 agreement, Ukraine was to receive $1 billion in compensation for giving up the nuclear weapons. It was also to receive fuel for its five nuclear plants from Russia and help from the United States in dismantling missiles and its missile silos, along with other economic assistance.

"With the completion of our task, Ukraine has demonstrated its support of a nuclear-weapons-free world," Kuchma said.

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