Russia warns against Ukraine bid to join NATO

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Moscow, Apr 1 (UNI) Russia warned former Soviet republic of Ukraine against joining NATO as US President George W Bush voiced support to Kiev in its bid to join the Western alliance.

After his talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev today, Mr Bush told journalists that the US backed the MAP (NATO's Membership Action Plan) for Ukraine and Georgia, another former Soviet republic which has also formally requested to join NATO.

''I will continue to make US position clear, we support the MAP for Ukraine and Georgia,'' RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying at his joint press conference with Mr Yushchenko.

Mr Bush's visit to Kiev is a stopover before a trip to Romania for the April 3-4 NATO summit.

Kiev and Tbilisi hope NATO members will adopt the decision to allow Ukraine and Georgia to join the MAP during the summit in Bucharest. Russian president Vladimir Putin will also attend the meeting as a guest.

Mr Bush said Ukraine and Georgia's NATO bids were no reason for Russia to be concerned, adding ''Russia will not have a veto over what happens in Bucharest''.

He stressed the move would be beneficial for both NATO and former Soviet republics and would ''help advance security in this region (Eastern Europe) and around the world''.

Reacting to Mr Bush's support to Ukraine in its bid to join NATO, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin yesterday said here Ukraine's joining NATO would severely affect the Russian-Ukrainian relations.

''Ukraine's accession to NATO will cause a deep crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations that will affect all-European security,'' Mr Karasin said at the hearing of the State Duma, lower house of parliament.

''Therefore, the West must also make a choice as to what kind of relationship with Russia is in its interests,'' he stressed..

The Minister said Kiev's admission to NATO would require a review of Russia's own security policy.

''Our policy with regard to Ukraine will be based on respect, but we will develop it depending on Ukraine's further actions,'' he pointed out.

''NATO's approach to Russia's borders is a situation that is unacceptable to us, and we will do all we can to prevent that from happening,'' State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said while commenting on Ukraine's bid to join.

He said one of the reasons why he objected to Ukraine's admission to NATO was that the move was opposed by the majority of Ukrainians.

Earlier, Mr Putin threatened to target missiles at Ukraine if Kiev joins NATO and allows Western military facilities on its territory.

Russia and US also have serious differences over Washington's plan to deploy missile shield in Europe.

Mr Bush today said in Kiev the missile shield planned for Europe would be no threat to Moscow, as Russia had sufficient firepower to overcome the proposed defence system.

''Russia could easily overwhelm the missile defence systems that we have envisioned,'' he said at his press conference.


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