Ukraine Eliminates Last of Its Strategic Bombers

Article excerpt

Ukraine dismantled its last strategic bomber during a May 17 ceremony at an airfield in Uzin attended by senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials, almost two months after Kiev eliminated its final strategic air-launched cruise missile.

Ukraine must finish eliminating its strategic arms by the START I implementation deadline of December 5, 2001. To date, Kiev has destroyed 11 Tu-160 strategic bombers, 27 strategic Tu-95 bombers, and 483 Kh-55 air-launched cruise missiles. Another 11 heavy bombers and 582 strategic cruise missiles were transferred to Russia under a 1999 agreement as payment for natural gas debts. In addition, all of Ukraine's 130 SS-19 ICBMs and associated silos and launch-control centers have been eliminated, as have 32 SS-24 ICBMs and their associated infrastructure.

Although all of Ukraine's ICBMs have been removed from their launch tubes and have been destroyed, Kiev must still eliminate 14 SS-24 silos and three launch-control centers. Work to restore the sites fully is expected to continue until mid-2002.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine agreed to rid itself of the nuclear weapons left on its soil by joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state and by becoming a START I party. In June 1996, Kiev announced that the last of its estimated 3,000 tactical and 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads had been transferred to Russia. …