Join NATO and pay the price, Putin warns Ukraine

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned Kiev that if Ukraine joins NATO, cooperation between the two countries will be affected. The announcement was made after Putin's meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Timoshenko in Moscow.

The Russian PM said any expansion of NATO would be “counterproductive in providing international security”.

“It will not prevent any new threats. Instead it'll create even more dividing lines. But again, the choice is up to those countries that declare their desire to join this or another military or political alliance,” Putin said.

Yulia Timoshenko said the decision to join NATO would not only involve the leadership of the country.

“As for Ukraine joining NATO, I can firmly say that the key thing for us is the opinion of the Ukrainian people. Any steps by Ukraine in this direction will be taken only after a nationwide referendum, where Ukrainians will have their say. The government of Ukraine and I, as a leader of a political force, will listen to the people's opinion,” Timoshenko said.

Future gas prices for Ukraine were also discussed at the meeting. Putin said that Russia intended “to gradually introduce the European price for Ukraine”. But he pointed out that Russia’s “Central Asian partners want to see that happen starting from January 1, 2009,” he said.

Talks on the issue are now under way with Ukraine and Russia’s energy partners in Asia.

The thorny issue of the future of Russia’s Black Sea fleet was raised at the meeting. Both prime ministers confirmed that it will stay in Ukraine until 2017, in compliance with the current agreement between the two countries.