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Bush arrives in Ukraine for state visit

US President George W. Bush landed in the Ukrainian capital Kiev late on Monday, kicking off his two-day state visit to Ukraine. Ukrainians protest against Bush’s visit, NATO bid.

Bush is expected to hold talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on bilateral relations and Ukraine’s bid to join the NATO Membership Action Plan. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vladimir Ogryzko said earlier during Bush’s visit the two countries will reaffirm their strategic partnership, approve a road map on bilateral cooperation and sign a series of documents. Ogryzko stressed the significance of Bush’s visit on the eve of a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, that will discuss Ukraine’s NATO bid.

It is the first visit to Ukraine by an incumbent US president in the recent eight years. In 2000, his predecessor Bill Clinton paid a state visit to the eastern European country.

About 5,000 Ukrainians gathered in Kiev on Monday to protest against the US President George W. Bush’s visit, and the Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership. Activists on Kiev’s Independence Square are showing the slogans saying “Bush out of Ukraine,” and “Yankee go home.” “If Ukraine is not accepted into the Membership Action Plan, we will remove the tents. But if Ukraine joins the plan, we will take more severe measures,” a unnamed protest organizer told reporters. He added that around 9,000 people are expected to take part in the protest from March 31 through April 4.

Ukraine’s drive toward NATO membership has triggered domestic parliamentary opposition protests amid widespread antipathy to the NATO. A survey published earlier this month said only 11% of Ukrainians supported the idea of NATO membership, most Ukrainians were against it.

During the April 2-4 meeting, NATO members will consider whether to grant Croatia, Albania and Macedonia memberships. Bush has made clear his support for Ukraine’s membership plans, and is likely to raise the issue at the summit. (