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Ukraine-NATO exercise successful despite protests - navy chief

30.07.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

Despite protest rallies, the annual Ukraine-NATO Sea Breeze military exercises went according to plan, the Ukrainian navy chief said on Monday.

The exercises were held from July 14-26 in Ukraine's Odessa, Crimea and Black Sea coastal regions and involved 14 ships, 17 aircraft and more than 2,200 personnel from Ukraine, the U.S. and other 14 countries, including NATO members.

"The Sea Breeze 2008 exercises, involving 16 countries, have been carried out in full," the Ukrainian Defense Ministry quoted Vice Adm. Ihor Tenyukh as saying.

The admiral said that during the exercises the participants conducted 55 air sorties, 410 paradrops, and 76 naval drills with live firing at sea targets.

During the exercises, Ukrainian anti-NATO protesters set up camps along the Black Sea coast, held rallies, and reportedly attempted to prevent foreign warships participating in the exercises from leaving the port of Odessa.

Ukraine's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since President Viktor Yushchenko came to power in 2004. Ukraine failed to secure a NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at a NATO summit in April, but was told the decision would be reviewed in December.

A poll conducted in June by the Razumkov Center pollster indicated that at least 60% of Ukrainians oppose NATO membership.

The Sea Breeze exercises have been taking place annually since 1997.

Two years ago, the Sea Breeze 2006 exercise in the Crimea was also disrupted by protests.

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