Bush to meet with Orange Revolution leaders in Ukraine

(dpa) - US President George Bush on Monday was scheduled to meet with the leaders of Ukraine's Orange Revolution during a state visit.

The US leader was set to spend some 16 hours in the former Soviet republic, arriving late Monday evening and flying on to a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania on Tuesday afternoon.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, leader of the country's pro-democracy Orange Revolution movement in 2004-5, was planning to meet Bush only on Tuesday morning, first for one-on-one discussions, and later in the day during talks between the two countries' delegations.

NATO consideration of a Ukrainian application to join the Atlantic alliance, and a "road map" of future US-Ukraine relations, were the top topics on the two presidents' discussion agenda, according to Yushchenko's press office.

Bush also was planning to meet with Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's prime minister and an ally with Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution, but now widely considered Yushchenko's probable opponent in the country's next presidential contest.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko both support an early entrance of Ukraine into NATO, though nationwide two out of every three Ukrainians oppose the idea, according to polls.

Protocol events and photo opportunities were priorities as well for Bush and his accompanying wife Laura. Bush's six-hour Tuesday programme included a "social lunch" with Yushchenko and his US wife Katerina Chumachenko, a tour of the 11th century St Sofia church, and a visit to an English-language middle school.

Security preparations for the Bush visit were unprecedented for the Ukrainian capital, with local officials warning traffic would be banned from much of the city's central district for much of Tuesday, and near-total gridlock throughout the day.

A critical highway needed by commuters to travel to and from work would be shut down for a full three hours each way, during the Bush motorcade's travel to and from Kiev's Borispyl airport, officials in the national DAI traffic police said.

Major Ukrainian newspapers and television news reports on Monday were reporting a real risk of getting shot by a US sniper, should a Kievite choose to climb on the roof of his apartment building as Bush was moving through the city.

As many as a million Kievites would be delayed or inconvenienced by the Bush visit, Sehodnia newspaper editorialised.

Some Ukrainian leftist fringe parties declared an intention to demonstrate against Bush's presence in Kiev, but major political groups opposing closer US relations with Ukraine - the Communists and the pro-Russia Regions Ukraine party - planned to stay off the streets, the Interfax news agency reported.

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