KIEV, May 28 – Ivan Svida, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces and the chief of the general staff, on Friday submitted his resignation apparently amid disagreements with the defense policy pursued by President Viktor Yanukovych.
The position allows ultimate control over the country’s armed forces, and the commander’s resignation must be accepted by the president to take effect.
“In a situation that has taken place, I recognize the right of the president to realize his vision for the development of the Armed Forces,” Svida said in a statement. “He will do so with another chief of the general staff.”
The resignation comes days after Yanukovych formally declared that Ukraine will abandon its earlier policy of trying to join the NATO military alliance.
Accession to NATO was the key security and defense policy of Yanukovych’s predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, but it had seriously angered Russia, which views NATO as a military threat.
Yanukovych has taken a number of steps to improve security cooperation with Russia, including a deal in April allowing Russia to extend the stay of its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol for 25 years through 2042.
Svida was appointed to his position by Yushchenko in November 2009.
“If we talk about joining NATO, this is unrealistic for our country today,” Yanukovych said Thursday while visiting Lviv. “According to NATO criteria, we must have support of the majority of the people.”
But Yanukovych said Ukraine will continue to cooperate with NATO in line with its partnership agreement.
Ukraine is the only non-member country that contributes forces to NATO’s all peace-keeping operations currently underway.
In line with policy of improving cooperation with Russia, Yanukovych earlier this month supported Moscow’s global security initiative that calls for adopting legally binding commitments to ensure the “space of stability” between North America, Europe to Russia.
The initiative was earlier suggested by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, but had been lukewarmly received by NATO.
Ukraine has become one of the few countries that have actually supported the idea.
The development underscored a foreign policy switch by Yanukovych away from Yushchenko’s push to secure the quick accession to NATO as a primary security task.
The switch is a victory for Russia, which has been using its regional power and resources to try to force its pro-Western neighbors to change their foreign policy courses towards greater cooperation with Moscow. (tl/ez)