Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko declares that he is determined to bring the former Soviet republic into the European Union and NATO.

"Our top priority is to enter the European Union," said Yushchenko in interview to Bloomberg agency. "For this reason we must to adapt laws to European ones to help domestic producers. We may expand in eastern markets, including Russia and Kazakhstan, but without breaking European market rules."

Yushchenko pledged Ukraine will start EU talks on setting up a free-trade agreement, a first step to membership, within three months.

"Our strategic aim is NATO membership," Yushchenko countered . "People don't support the idea because they know nothing about NATO and its goals. People still have in mind the terrible myths of 1950s," when NATO was created as a defensive cordon against the Soviet Union.

Yushchenko said he will forge ahead with a publicity campaign to generate support for NATO and EU membership in an attempt to bridge the pro-West and pro-Russian sectors of society. He would favor NATO membership during his presidency, which ends in 2009.

"We will start a special program aimed to inform society about what NATO is, its history and activities next year," he said in the interview. "Ukraine is a part of Europe. We have a lot of common interests and values. Thus, we must have a common system of protection."


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