(RIA Novosti) Ukraine is ready to provide a detachment of military experts to participate in the international anti-terrorism operation in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Friday.

"During his two-day visit to Portugal for Ukraine-NATO consultations, Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko confirmed his country's readiness to provide a detachment of military experts," the spokesman said.

Ukraine had been actively seeking NATO membership until a power-sharing agreement ended a political stalemate between pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko and his Russia-leaning rival Viktor Yanukovych, who was appointed the new prime minister in August.

On September 14, Yanukovych said the country was shelving its bid to join NATO for the time being because of widespread opposition within society, and on September 21 he said in Brussels that the issue of Ukraine's accession to NATO will be decided by a national referendum.

Neighboring Russia has also voiced concerns about Ukrainian NATO membership.

Hrytsenko said Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko will issue the order deploying the troops soon.

He emphasized that the unit sent will not be a combat detachment, but will be composed of military personnel who will provide expert assistance.

"The issue is not about a combat detachment, but of military medical personnel, air traffic controllers, and staff to provide expert and other assistance," the minister said.

The U.S.-led anti-terrorism operation in Afghanistan began in late-2001, following terrorist attacks on the United States September 11.


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