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  Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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Ukraine's president said Wednesday that his country needed to know more about NATO
Ukraine's president said Wednesday that his country needed to know more about NATO and attributed a recent wave of protests against the bloc to a lack of information about its policies and goals. The protests in Ukraine's predominantly Russian-speaking republic of Crimea, on the Black Sea, began after a U.S. cargo ship docked at the port of Feodosiya May 27. The vessel was delivering equipment for a U.S.-led military exercise, but her visit prompted Crimea's parliament to declare the region a NATO-free zone. Speaking at a news conference in The Hague as part of a two-day visit to the Netherlands, President Viktor Yushchenko said, "Ukrainian society needs to know more about NATO's goals and activities." The Ukrainian leader, who came to power on the back of the 2004 "orange revolution" and has since then consistently stated his desire to see the country join NATO and the European Union, said the nation was still very much under the influence of Soviet-era myths. "Ukrainians should know the truth about NATO and, most importantly, to have the state's new defense and security policy concept explained to them," he told reporters. Yushchenko said the Ukrainian government was trying to provide the public with exhaustive information about its bid to join NATO and that political forces seeking to gain political capital from anti-NATO rhetoric had little sway in the country. "I would like to point out that some political forces made anti-NATO rhetoric the basis of their election campaigns, but these forces lost the election, failing to overcome the 3% vote threshold [to take up seats in parliament]." Natalia Vitrenko's People's Opposition party was one movement that campaigned on a vehemently anti-NATO platform in the March 26 elections, but it failed to win enough votes to make it into parliament. Vitrenko severely criticized Yushchenko for allowing the U.S. ship to dock in Crimea even though earlier this year, parliament prohibited foreign troops from taking part in exercises in Ukrainian territory. Speaking in The Hague, the Ukrainian leader suggested the anti-NATO protests might have been orchestrated by some "third parties."
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