Ukraine sets sights on joining NATO

Apr 10, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT
Ukrainian servicemen take part in a military drill in the Zhytomyr region, some 150 kms from Kiev, on April 9, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine, locked in conflict with Russian-backed separatists in its east, on Thursday drew up a new security doctrine denouncing Russia's "aggression" and setting its sights on joining the U.S.-led NATO military alliance, reports Reuters.

Oleksander Turchynov, head of the national security council, told a session of the body that Ukraine saw Russian aggression as a "long-standing factor" and viewed NATO membership as "the only reliable external guarantee" of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Turchynov's comments and the move to draft a new security strategy were certain to raise hackles in Russia, which annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 after a pro-Western leadership took power in Kiev in the wake of an uprising that ousted a Moscow-backed president.

Russian officials have said the radical change of leadership in Kiev raises the strategic threat of U.S. and NATO warships one day being based in the Black Sea waters off Crimea. Moscow has backed separatists fighting Kiev government forces in eastern Ukraine, in a conflict in which more than 6,000 people have been killed.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has said it has evidence pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine summarily killed four Ukrainian soldiers in their captivity, writes the BBC.

Witnesses told the group that one government soldier was shot at point-blank range by a separatist commander. Amnesty also said it had videos of three others shown alive in captivity, then dead in a morgue with bullet wounds to their heads and upper bodies.

A fragile ceasefire has been in force in eastern Ukraine since February. The killings are tantamount to war crimes, Amnesty said.

"These claims must be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated, and the perpetrators prosecuted in fair trials by recognized authorities," said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at the organisation.

The allegations come after one separatist commander told the Ukrainian newspaper Kyiv Post he personally killed 15 soldiers captured from the Ukrainian armed forces.