Lithuanian President Pledges Support For Ukraine's Pro-Western Aspirations

KIEV, Ukraine -- Lithuania's president on Tuesday pledged his country's continuing support for Ukraine and its pro-Western policies, as Ukraine's government faces a growing internal feud over the speed and direction of those policies.

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus

"Lithuania will further support the path of democracy and reform which Ukraine is following and the goals which Ukraine has, that is, the European path, the European-Atlantic path," President Valdas Adamkus said during a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko.

During his three-day visit to Ukraine, Adamkus, who helped mediate during the 2004 Orange Revolution that helped bring Yushchenko to power, was also scheduled to meet Premier Viktor Yanukovych and other top lawmakers.

Yushchenko has made membership in the European Union and NATO priorities for Ukraine. Along with neighboring Poland, Lithuania has been one of ex-Soviet republic's loudest cheerleaders, encouraging its efforts to move out Russia's shadow. Both Lithuania and Poland are members of the EU and NATO.

But Yanukovych, who returned to the country's No. 2 job in August, has indicated he supports putting Ukraine's bid to join NATO on hold and making improving frayed ties with Moscow a priority — moves that have cause friction with Yushchenko.

Most Ukrainians, particularly in the largely Russian-speaking east and south, remain deeply skeptical of NATO — due partly to lingering Soviet-era skepticism as well fears that NATO membership would harm relations with Russia.

Yushchenko on Tuesday insisted that all political parties have the same strategic goals for Ukraine.

"No changes will take place in Ukraine's foreign political course, including integration into the European Union as well as integration into the Europen-Atlantic defense union," he said.

Source: AP