Ukrainian opposition continues parliamentary protest over NATO bid

KIEV, February 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Ukrainian opposition intends to continue obstructing the work of parliament over the issue of country's drive for NATO membership, an opposition leader said on Monday.

Work by the Supreme Rada has already been blocked for a few weeks by the Party of Regions and the Communist Party. The two parties are demanding a referendum on the country's accession to the NATO Membership Action Plan.

"We will be present in parliament tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, but we have made a decision to obstruct the work of the Supreme Rada," said Oleksandr Yefremov, a Party of Regions' leader.

He said the party would only call off its obstruction of parliamentary work if a common solution on the issue was reached.

In January, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk sent a letter to the alliance's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressing their hope that the country could join the action plan for NATO membership.

A NATO-Ukraine commission is due to hold a meeting during the alliance's summit in Bucharest, Romania, on April 2-4, 2008.

Russia has been unnerved by NATO's ongoing expansion, and last week at his last annual press conference in the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin said Russia could retarget its missiles on Ukraine if the country joined NATO.

"It is terrifying even to think that in response [to Ukraine allowing anti-missile defenses to be deployed on its territory] Russia could target its nuclear missile systems against Ukraine. This is what worries us," Putin said.

Ukraine later said it was prepared to pass legislation barring the deployment of NATO military bases on its soil should it join the military alliance.

A recent poll carried out by Ukraine's Democratic Initiatives foundation indicated that over 50% of Ukrainians would vote against joining NATO. In the survey, 51.9% of respondents said they viewed NATO as an "aggressive imperialist bloc that would draw Ukraine into military conflicts."

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