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Ukraine Destroys Last Missile Silo
October 30, 2001

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukraine destroyed its last nuclear missile silo on Tuesday, fulfilling a pledge to give up the vast nuclear arsenal it inherited after the breakup of the former Soviet Union.

The silo was blown up at a military range in the southern Mykolaiv region near Pervomaisk, according to the Interfax news agency. The U.S.-Ukrainian Cooperative Threat Reduction Program oversaw the destruction.

A team of U.S. and Ukrainian officials joined three schoolchildren in turning six keys to detonate the explosives that blew up the silo, the last of 46 to be dismantled.

``So far, Ukraine confirmed its commitment to secure peace and stability, and made a significant contribution to strengthening the international regime of arms nonproliferation,'' said Serhiy Borodenkov, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

The land beneath the silo will be cleaned and converted for agricultural use, officials said.

Ukraine inherited the world's third-largest nuclear stockpile with the 1991 Soviet collapse, including 130 SS-19 missiles, 46 SS-24 missiles and dozens of strategic bombers. The country later renounced nuclear weapons and transferred all missiles and its 1,300 nuclear warheads to Russia. After processing, the nuclear materials from the warheads were brought back to Ukraine as nuclear fuel for power plants.

In 1997, Ukraine and the United States signed a treaty on American assistance in dismantling 38 Tu-160s and Tu-95s bombers and more than 480 Kh-55 air-launched cruise missiles. The last two bombers were dismantled in February.

The United States initiated the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in 1991 to reduce the nuclear capability of former Soviet Union nations.

All work under the disarmament program is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 4.

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