VILNIUS - Lithuania and Ukraine have pledged to boost their military cooperation during a meeting of the two nations' defense ministers on March 13.
Ukrainian defense minister Anatolyj Grycenko met with his Lithuanian counterpart Juozas Olekas in Vilnius to sign a military agreement that provides for the participation of Ukrainian troops in the Lithuanian-led NATO provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan.
Rather than commit troops, Ukraine will begin the mission by sending one military doctor to serve in the Lithuanian unit.
"I am very happy that the Ukrainian flag will soon fly next to the flags of Denmark, Croatia, the United States and Iceland in the Ghor province," Olekas said after signing the agreement.
Some 120 Lithuanian troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan, where the Baltic country has been leading the NATO reconstruction mission since summer 2005. Lithuania plans to send more troops to the country to contribute to NATO's attempt to suppress the resurgent Taliban offensive.
The ministers, together with the commander of Lithuania's army Valdas Tutkus, also discussed the possibility of joint participation in other international missions.
The two countries and Poland currently take part in operations in the former Yugoslavian province of Kosovo. The ministers forwarded the idea that a joint battalion from the three countries could be established in the future.
Grycenko also met with Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas and President Valdas Adamkus, who awarded the Ukrainian minister with the Lithuanian state award.
Military cooperation between the two nations has been developing since 2000 through joint exercises and officer study programs.
Ukrainians are to take part in some 12 military events in Lithuania this year, while Lithuanian soldiers and officers are to take part in some eight exercises and other events in Ukraine.