* Kiev asked for NATO's advice on safety of infrastructure
* Ukraine is key gas transit hub, site of Chernobyl
* Kiev says Russia threatens its security
By Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS, May 7 NATO experts have visited
Ukraine to advise authorities there on improving the safety of
nuclear power plants, gas pipelines and other critical
infrastructure amid growing violence and fears of conflict with
Russia, officials said on Wednesday.
Ukraine's Ambassador to NATO, Ihor Dolhov, said the NATO
civilian experts had visited Ukraine last month to assess
critical infrastructure such as nuclear plants, pumping stations
for gas pipelines and hydro-electric plants.
"In any country, in any situation, there are plans and
additional measures to protect infrastucture objects, including
in Ukraine. So the purpose was to evaluate the performance of
measures which are being implemented in Ukraine to protect such
objects," Dolhov told Reuters.
Another objective was to make sure the installations would
be safe in the event of an emergency, he said.
A NATO official confirmed that a small team of civilian
experts from the alliance visited Kiev last month "to advise the
Ukrainian authorities on their national civil contingency plans
and safety measures in the context of possible threats to
critical energy infrastructure."
The NATO team, sent in response to a request from the
Ukrainian government, later delivered a confidential report with
recommendations to Ukrainian authorities, who were evaluating
it, the official said.
Ukraine is a major transit route for Russian gas to the
Ukraine, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident at
Chernobyl in 1986, has 15 nuclear power reactors in operation,
accounting for nearly 44 percent of its electricity production
in 2013, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Asked if the study was carried out because of Kiev's fears
of Russian intervention in Ukraine, Dolhov said one reason was
"possible destabilisation" in an area where strategic
infrastructure was located.
Ukraine told the U.N. atomic watchdog in March it was
reinforcing the protection of its nuclear power plants because
of "a grave threat to the security" of the country posed by the
A rebellion in the east has raised the prospect that
Ukraine, a country of around 45 million people the size of
France, could be carved up or even descend into civil war.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO and the alliance has said it
will not get involved militarily in Ukraine. But Ukraine and
NATO have increased cooperation and Ukraine has asked NATO
members for non-lethal equipment such as uniforms.
Dolhov said in a telephone interview he expected the first
shipments of this non-lethal aid to be delivered in coming days.
Dolhov also said Ukrainian authorities had information that
Russian President Vladimir Putin planned to attend a parade in
the Crimean port of Sebastopol on May 9 marking the Soviet
Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, something
Dolhov said would be a provocation and a cynical move.
He said the shooting down by pro-Russian rebels in eastern
Ukraine of two Ukrainian helicopters, using what the country's
Defence Ministry said were shoulder-launched anti-aircraft
missiles, was evidence of Russian involvement.
"For me, it is clear. Otherwise it is difficult to explain
how so-called protesters could get such kind of weapons. It's
not from the shop," he said.
"I am sure that agents of special services of Russia are
present on the territory of Ukraine," he added.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)