Ukraine to join NATO anti-piracy mission

Ukraine will provide a ship to take part in NATO's Ocean Shield anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa, the first alliance partner nation to do so, NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday.

Rasmussen said Ukraine was "a significant partner for NATO", and an exchange of letters with Defence Minister Pavlo Lebedev confirmed Kiev's offer of a vessel.

NATO's Ocean Shield cooperates with the EU's Operation Atalanta and several other task forces fighting pirates who prey on shipping off the Horn of Africa.

NATO defence ministers welcomed Lebedev on Friday for a session on relations with his country, which the military alliance invited to join in 2008.

Ukraine, whose ties with Russia remain strong, has not taken up the offer, but as a formal partner nation of the 28-member NATO, it has provided troops to NATO operations in both Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Rasmussen said it was up to Kiev to "decide how to proceed" with the relationship, adding that Friday's meeting showed the country has "a strong interest in further political cooperation with NATO".