NATO's secretary general on Thursday called his visit to Ukraine an important step toward changing negative views leftover from the Cold War about the Western military alliance that this ex-Soviet republic hopes to join.
But a small protest was held in the eastern city of Donetsk, with protesters waving placards reading "NATO - Ukraine's Grave" and shouting "NATO - Out!"
"We have to work hard we in NATO, but also the Ukrainians themselves have to work hard to change that perception because I think that perception is wrong," NATO Secretary General Jaap Hoop Scheffer said.
President Viktor Yushchenko has made membership in NATO a key goal, but many Ukrainians, particularly in the Russian-speaking east, still have a negative attitude toward their former Cold War foe, the AP reports.
Yushchenko acknowledged that his government has a lot of work to do to change views, telling another visiting NATO official, Pierre Lellouche, president of the NATO parliamentary assembly delegation, that many Ukrainians still "associate NATO with the myths of the (19)50s."
De Hoop Scheffer repeated his promise that NATO's doors will remain open for Ukraine if it completes the necessary reforms, putting particular emphasis on the need for Ukraine to guarantee the rule of law, respect for human rights and media freedoms. A.M.