- KIEV, Ukraine (CNN) -- The U.S. ambassador
joined senior Ukrainian defense officials Friday to watch Ukraine destroy
the last one of more than 100 SS-19 nuclear missiles under a U.S.-financed
- The elimination of the final missile
was successfully completed in the southeastern city of Dnipropetrovsk at
a special dismantling facility built by U.S. companies, the U.S. Embassy
in Kiev said. American Ambassador Steven Pifer attended.
- Ukraine inherited the world's third-largest
nuclear arsenal with the 1991 Soviet collapse, which included 130 SS-19
missiles, 46 SS-24 missiles and 44 strategic bombers.
- Of these, the country already has successfully
destroyed all of the SS-19 missiles and respective missile launch silos,
one SS-24 silo and one bomber.
- The United States has contributed more
than $500 million to help Ukraine dismantle the nuclear weapons infrastructure
under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program initiated by Sen. Richard
Lugar, R-Indiana, and then-Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Georgia, in 1991.
- The Nunn-Lugar program provides for American
technical assistance to the former Soviet Union to eliminate weapons of
mass destruction and account for weapons materiel.
- The elimination of the remaining strategic
bombers and ballistic missiles in Ukraine is scheduled to be finished by
- The country earlier surrendered all its
nuclear warheads to Russia and pledged to remain nuclear-free.
- Nuclear workers vow protests until wages
- Workers at Ukraine's nuclear power plants,
meanwhile, said they would continue holding protest actions at their stations
until the government paid off all salary arrears. The workers say that
safety at the plants is being compromised.
- Olexander Yurkin, head of the trade union
of nuclear plant workers, said that more than 500 workers were taking part
in protest actions at tent camps laid out near Ukraine's five nuclear power
- He said protesters were determined to
continue their action, begun on Wednesday, despite cold weather. "Our
people are ready to be in their camps as long as it is necessary to win,"
- The protesters are demanding that the
government pay off by March 6 salary debts for nuclear plant workers amounting
to nearly $15 million.
- They say hungry workers and the scanty
funding allotted to the sector cannot guarantee the necessary level of
safety at plants, and threaten to reduce electricity output if their demands
are not met.
- Similar protests in front of the government
building in the capital Kiev earlier this month led to the sacking of the
head of the state nuclear power agency Energoatom. Officials promised
to make every effort to meet the protesters' demand by the March 6 deadline.
- "The government does everything
possible to pay off all salary debts to our nuclear workers by March 6,"
First Deputy Energy Minister Mykhailo Umanets told Reuters. "We understand
very well we have to cover debts to stop these protests."
- Ukraine operates five nuclear power plants
with 14 Soviet-designed nuclear reactors, which generate almost half the
electricity consumed by the country of 50 million people.
- It is the scene of the world's worst
nuclear accident, at Chernobyl in 1986.