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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Ukrainian opposition ready to use fists to 'defend national interests'

RIA Novosti


KIEV, April 26 (RIA Novosti) - The party of former Ukrainian premier Yulia Tymoshenko may be forced to attack its opponents during a debate on the ratification of a deal to extend the lease of a Russian naval base, a lawmaker said on Monday.

The deal, signed by the Russian and Ukrainian presidents on April 21, extends the lease on the Russian base in the port of Sevastopol for at least 25 years after the current lease was to expire in 2017.

Ukraine signed the agreement, which the opposition has called an "act of treason," in exchange for securing a 30% discount for the Russian natural gas supplies.

"I do not exclude... the use of force," Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc lawmaker Olegh Lyashko said at a news conference, as quoted by UNIAN.

"They [the Ukrainian authorities] are determined in their decision to trade off Ukrainian national interests, and we are determined to defend them," Lyashko said.

He also said that the ratification of the deal could lead to a referendum on Crimea, with its majority Russian-speaking population, breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia. However, Moscow has never made any claim to the peninsula.

Tymoshenko has called the deal with Russia a "shocking trade-off" and another "unconstitutional" move by President Viktor Yanukovych, who has vowed to turn a "new page" in relations with Russia.

The Ukrainian opposition earlier said any prolongation of Russian military presence in the country would require amendments to the Constitution and a national referendum. It said Yanukovych should be impeached for signing an unconstitutional agreement.

Mykola Tomenko, deputy speaker of parliament and a leader of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, said on Wednesday Article 17 of the Constitution forbids the deployment of foreign military bases on Ukrainian soil.

However, section XV says existing military bases on Ukrainian territory can be used by foreign troops under a lease agreement ratified by the Ukrainian Supreme Rada (parliament) if they are defined by international treaties.

RIA Novosti analyst Peter van Dyk says the deal will "set a marker for how far the administration of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych can go in moving Kiev closer to Moscow."

The debate is scheduled for Tuesday.