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12 Feb, 2008 16:50

Ukrainian anti-NATO balloon show

Ukraine's drive to join NATO has affected the work of its parliament. Around fifty deputies from the opposition Party of Regions blocked the rostrum on Tuesday. They put up blue and yellow balloons in the main hall of the Ukrainian Rada which read “

They demand that the parliament speaker withdraw his signature from a letter stating Ukraine's intention to join the alliance.

Together with the country's Communists, the party claims that a referendum should be held on accession.

Russia could aim strike missiles at Ukraine

Ukraine's intention to join NATO and Russia's concerns over it has been mentioned at a media conference following the meeting of Russia's President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko in Moscow.

President Putin stressed that Russia does not and will not lecture other countries on what course their foreign policies take.

“We never wanted to join NATO, because joining an organisation such as NATO, means limiting the sovereignty of our country. If Ukraine wants to limit its own sovereignty, that's Ukraine's internal decision as well as developing its security strategy. We have no right, and we won't interfere in this process,” Putin stressed.

On the other hand he said that if Ukraine joins NATO it may be encouraged to host military bases, just like Poland and Czech Republic are going to host elements of the U.S. anti-missile system. Russia sees the system as a threat to its national security and thus such sites are natural targets for Russia's nuclear strike forces. Ukraine may get into a similar situation, the Russian leader believes.

“But it's scary to think that Russia could aim its missiles at Ukraine, if it allows such bases,” Putin added.

President Yushchenko on his part cited Ukraine's constitution, which forbids placing foreign military bases on the country's territory and said that Moscow and Kiev will hold consultations on the issue.