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    Sevastopol residents crush NATO-touting billboards

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    Residents of the Crimean city of Sevastopol in south Ukraine are destroying billboards put up by the country's authorities to promote NATO membership, a RIA Novosti correspondent said Saturday.

    SEVASTOPOL, November 29 (RIA Novosti) - Residents of the Crimean city of Sevastopol in south Ukraine are destroying billboards put up by the country's authorities to promote NATO membership, a RIA Novosti correspondent said Saturday.

    A campaign urging people to support the country's bid for NATO membership has started in 40 towns of the Crimean Peninsula on orders from the Foreign Ministry ahead of next month's NATO session in Brussels.

    Sevastopol residents are tearing down and splashing paint over posters saying "Ukraine Plus NATO Equals Security!" and "Next Stop Is NATO!" despite threats from police to open criminal probes for doing so.

    "The propaganda of the aggressive military bloc in the city which hosts the main base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet and where 97% of population are [ethnic] Russians is Kiev's political provocation," local Communist Party leader Vasily Parkhomenko said.

    Organizers say the campaign aims to tell people that NATO is a "peacekeeping organization by no means threatening Russia." "We must convey the truth about the alliance to Ukrainians now that they have chosen the European path," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

    According to opinion polls, most Ukrainians are opposed to joining NATO.

    The foreign ministers of the 26 NATO member states will meet in Brussels on December 2-3 to decide whether Ukraine and Georgia are ready to join the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP).

    NATO refused at its summit in April to let Georgia and Ukraine into MAP, a key step towards membership of the alliance, but promised to review the decision in December. The countries had received strong U.S. backing for their bids.

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