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13 Mar, 2007 08:40

U.S. & Ukraine to discuss missile defence plans

U.S. & Ukraine to discuss missile defence plans

The U.S. Missile Defence Agency Director is coming to Kiev for talks with top Ukrainian officials. Henry Obering will discuss the anti-missile bases set to be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland among other issues.

The visit comes amid protests against the country's plans to join NATO.

In Kiev, several dozen activists tried to disrupt an earlier meeting – the NATO-Ukraine Civic League's fourth annual assembly, where the controversial move was being discussed.

Advocates of NATO's expansion to Ukraine got a hostile welcome from their opponents. Dozens of people from the Communist and the Progressive Socialist parties blockaded the front entrance to the conference venue. Despite the low turn out, they still managed to make their voices heard.

“They want to impose western ideals on us, want to persuade us that everything will be ok as soon as we join NATO. But we can see that Poland did join and nothing is ok there. The Polish people cross the border, buy goods here, sell it at home and so earn their living because some products are really cheaper in Ukraine. The only thing that NATO and EU accession brought to Poland is high European prices. It will be the same with us. Do you really think we want it?” says a young protester.

People will be poorer and poorer.  First they ruined our national industry, agriculture and army to make us feel helpless; to make us think we needed to be protected and can't do it without NATO soldiers,” adds an old lady.

The delegates debated the people's role in helping Ukraine to join NATO.

Anti-NATO protesters refused to be left out and managed to smuggle themselves into the meeting.

However, they refused to speak up and chose to stand over the VIPs in silence.  Following a short tussle, they were eventually forced to leave.

In a video link with NATO headquarters, the Polish Ambassador said that membership plans for Ukraine are indefinite. Political instability and an unclear foreign policy were quoted to stall expansion.

An advisor to the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Rybachuk, said Ukraine should act soon.

“Each country that entered the European Union during its last expansion had to become a member of NATO first. They did it to enforce the collective security in the region. And we should do the same. I don't think we have any other choice if we want to be part of the European Union,” believes Volodymyr Rybachuk.

The delegates identified 3 main concerns about NATO in Ukraine:  the Ukrainians believe NATO is expensive, it aims to destroy relations with Russia, and that it will take their men to war.

The participants agreed that intensive public campaigns and political unity should cure the problem.

Opinion polls show that if a referendum was held tomorrow, most of the people in Ukraine would vote “no” to NATO expansion to the East.  That's why the lawmakers postponed the vote indefinitely. However, the communists oppose this move and decided to organize their own referendums countrywide to stall the expansion.