Anti-NATO Bomb Threat Against US Soldiers In Ukraine Port

KIEV, Ukraine -- An anonymous bomb threat was called in against US soldiers in a Ukrainian port city on Tuesday as anti-NATO protests by local residents continued.

A Ukrainian bomb squad team inspected a dormitory housing 120 US service personnel in the Crimean provincial capital Simferopol after an unidentified man informed authorities of an intention to detonate the device.

The caller made no demands but said NATO troops should stay out of Ukraine, according to a police report.

Ukrainian sappers searched the building and found no explosives. No US service personnel were injured, the Interfax news agency reported.

The false alarm came a day after thousands of Ukrainian demonstrators opposed the unloading of a NATO cargo ship in the Crimean port Feodosia, Sehodnia newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Marchers erected a barricade at the port's entrance after the ship, chartered by the Atlantic alliance, arrived began discharging military materials.

The vehicles and supplies had been intended for use in joint training exercises between NATO and Ukrainian army troops next month.

The demonstrators, most linked with a fringe Ukrainian political party supporting Marxism, told reporters the planned exercise violated Ukraine's constitution, which forbids the presence of foreign troops on Ukrainian soil without express permission of parliament.

Marchers displayed signs saying 'NATO Out!,' 'No to NATO!' and 'Guys, we don't need (vulgar expletive) NATO in our land!'

Ukrainian special forces armed with automatic rifles and silencers had deployed to the site by Tuesday evening. There was no physical conflict between the soldiers and the crowd.

Drivers of lorries hired to carry the NATO materials to the training site however refused to move past the roadblock, in part because some protestors threatened to damage the lorry tyres if the vehicles shifted from a parking lot near the ship.

Ukraine has conducted joint training exercises with NATO troops for more than a decade. This year parliamentary permission has not been forthcoming, because Ukraine's newly-elected legislature has been stymied for two months trying to form a working majority.

Ukrainian constitutional scholars do not agree as to whether the Ukrainian President may allow foreign troops in the country, if parliament is not in session.

The annual training event, called Sea Breeze, sometimes involves dozens of warships and thousands of military personnel from nations throughout the Black Sea basin. Usually the soldiers practise a multi-national response to a regional crisis or natural disaster.

Protest leader Natalia Vitrenko, a Ukrainian politician known for her outspoken support of Leninism and close links to the Kremlin, in a speech predicted the Feodosia protest was just the beginning.

Anti-NATO protestors have targeted a training exercise scheduled between the Ukrainian and British air forces later this summer in Mikolaev, and preparations are in progress for demonstrators to lie down on runways to prevent their use by combat aircraft, she said.

Ukraine's government has repeatedly declared its intention to join NATO as soon as possible, although it has dragged its feet on military reforms necessary to allow the former Soviet republic to join the alliance.

Russia bitterly opposes Ukraine's sometimes nebulous NATO aspirations.

The majority of Ukrainians are against joining NATO, because of fears Ukrainian soldiers might be sent to Afghanistan and Iraq, and because of NATO's 1999 airstrikes against Serbia, a traditional Ukrainian ally.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur