(dpa) - In a demonstration two days before the arrival fo US President George W Bush for a visit to the Ukraine, thousands of protesters voiced their opposition to the country possibly joining the NATO alliance on Saturday.
The demonstration in the Black Sea coastal town of Simpferopol shouled "NATO-No!" at the rally attended by some 5,000 people from Ukraine's various parties.
"NATO - This is war against the Slavic world," read one banner among the dozens held up during the rally.
The protesters also passed a resolution criticising pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko and Premier Julia Tymoshenko for having sent a message to NATO seeking Ukrainian membership in the alliance.
Bush is to arrive in Kiev on Monday evening and meet with Yushchenko and Tymoshenko on Tuesday before then flying on to Bucharest for the April 2-4 NATO summit.
Leftist parties in the Ukraine have called for mass protests to be staged in Kiev to protest against Ukrainian membership in NATO.
According to public opinion surveys, the majority of Ukrainians are opposed to their country joining NATO. The country's huge neighbour, Russia, also wants to prevent the Ukraine from joining the western alliance, some NATO members such as France and Germany are against NATO establishing close cooperation too quickly with Kiev.