( dpa ) - US President George W. Bush and his entourage descended on the usually peaceful Ukrainian capital Kiev on Monday, for a state visit devoted mostly to photo opportunities.
The US leader's 18-hour presence paralysed whole urban districts, inconvenienced tens of thousands of Kievites, and gained the already unpopular US leader more enemies in the former Soviet republic.
"It's just like during Communism - the police are going nuts over some big shot, and we Kiev citizens are locked out of our own city," street vendor Serhy Povorotnik griped.
"Don't forget, (former Soviet leader Leonid) Brezhnev started a war in Afghanistan, and so did Bush. Big countries are all alike!" he added, repeating a common Ukrainian criticism of Bush.
The security precautions required by the 43rd US president for his short stay were for Ukraine unprecedented, rivalling and at times exceeding precautions demanded by Soviet leaders of the once-feared KGB.
The Bush motorcade - a column of SUVs, sedans, darkened windows and flashing lights numbering 50 vehicles including Ukrainian cop escorts - received total control of the country's only high-grade highway, the road from Kiev's Borispil airport to Kiev, for a full three hours, twice.
Bush and his subordinates made the Borispil road "absolutely impossible" on Monday evening while roadway serves as a key lorry thoroughfare between Kiev and Moscow; and were set to do so again during Tuesday afternoon rush hour, preventing residents of high-rent suburbs near Borispol village from returning home from work.
Restrictions in Kiev's centre were even more severe, with a White House "security bubble" encompassing a roughly a half-kilometre circle around the Hyatt Hotel, where Bush and his wife Laura were scheduled to spend the night.
Non-official vehicle movement within the zone was banned in the vicinity for duration of the Bushes' stay. The order made inaccessible by car thousands of homes and businesses in Kiev's old city, Ukraine's highest-rent district. (Real estate in Kiev prices rival Paris these days.)
"We Ukrainians, we have a tradition of tolerance of foreigners, and hospitality to guests," said Anastasia Tsimbaleva, a waitress without orders or tips at the usually busy Kava cafe. "But the guest has to be polite, and taking over Kiev centre isn't."
Kiev city police prior to Bush's visit warned citizens, quite seriously, not to venture onto the roofs of buildings in the city centre because "the Americans are arriving with their own snipers, and they will shoot any one near the president, who has anything resembling a weapon in his hands," Korrespondent magazine reported.
More than 5,000 Ukrainian uniformed and plain-clothes police were mobilized to protect Bush and ensure order. The number of law enforcers doubled the security troops on hand during former US president Bill Clinton's visit in 2000, or Pope John Paul II's visit in 2001.
One rare pleasant side effect of the Ukrainian security surge was noted by local motorists on Monday: the hated traffic police had disappeared from the streets, taking the day off before Bush's evening arrival.
The US president's itinerary on Tuesday contained only two meetings with local politicians, both less than 15 minutes' walk from the Hyatt. Bush was to make the move by armoured convoy, severing traffic across Kiev's main street, the Khreshchatyk, in the process.
The bulk of the US president's six-hour Kiev schedule placed Bush against television-friendly backdrops: the sky-blue 11th century St. Sofia cathedral, a formal lunch with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's and his attractive blond Chicago-born wife Ekaterina, or amidst English-speaking students at Kiev Middle School Number 57.
School officials, fearing the wrong impression, had banned short skirts and make-up on female students during Bush's visit. The stricture for most young Kiev women, as a group pretty and quite style-conscious, is roughly comparable to forbidding US high school students from wearing blue jeans.
The paint on exercise equipment was still wet, floors were being sanded, obscene graffiti erased from exterior walls, and the curtains being cleaned and rehung, at the school on Sunday afternoon. By omission or perhaps because it was behind the school where Bush's choreographed tour would not walk, giant graffiti letters on the ally wall of the nearby Molodoi Theatre were untouched.
"We are sick of them, we have had American (diplomats) in here every day asking about this and that," a student told Sehodnia newspaper. "I can't wait for it to be over."