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New Ukraine Doctrine Declares Russia Military Foe

FILE - Ukrainian troops ride atop an armored vehicle outside Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine.
FILE - Ukrainian troops ride atop an armored vehicle outside Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's national security council on Wednesday approved a new military doctrine that declares Russia to be a military opponent and calls for the country to pursue NATO membership.

There was no immediate official reaction from Russia, which hotly denies claims that it has sent troops and equipment to separatist rebels in Ukraine's east and which opposes Ukraine's entry into NATO.

The move came amid strong political tensions over President Petro Poroshenko's efforts to get approval of a constitutional change that would devolve some powers to the regions, including the eastern regions held by the rebels. Opponents say the change would effectively be capitulation to Russia.

It was unclear whether the military doctrine's stance against Russia could dilute opposition to the decentralization.

The doctrine now goes to Poroshenko for his signature.

At the security council meeting, Poroshenko said the doctrine "not only officially establishes the Russian Federation as Ukraine's military opponent, but states the task of relocating military units and creating the necessary military infrastructure in the eastern and southern regions.''

On Monday, as the Ukrainian parliament gave initial approval to the decentralization measure, a violent protest broke out outside the building. Three national guardsmen were killed when a grenade was thrown into the crowd.

Two parties in the governing coalition said Wednesday that they wouldn't abandon the grouping amid the intense dispute over the proposal. But those parties' opposition to the measure appeared firm, and Poroshenko faced a steep battle to push it through.

The initial approval given Monday was well short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

Oleg Berezyuk, head of the Samopomich faction, said Wednesday that it would "remain in the coalition in the role of opposition within the parliamentary majority.'' A member of Poroshenko's faction, Igor Kononeko, said the faction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko would also remain in the coalition, the Interfax news agency reported.