It was the most clear-cut statement by the new leadership of President Viktor Yanukovych that the issue was a dead letter in Ukraine for the conceivable future.

“Ukraine will continue developing its relations with the alliance, but the question of membership is now being removed from the agenda,” the foreign minister, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

“This corresponds to the way things are today,” he added in comments to a foreign policy coordination meeting.

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Yanukovych himself was separately quoted as saying by Interfax in the Western city of Lviv: “Entry into NATO is not realistic for our country today.”

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