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Ukraine Leader Pushes NATO Bid on Independence Day

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says his country must strengthen its military defenses and step up efforts to gain membership in the NATO military alliance.

Mr. Yushchenko spoke Sunday in Kyiv, in an address marking Ukraine's 17th anniversary of independence from the former Soviet Union.

He spoke as Russia, which strenuously opposes the NATO aspirations of both Ukraine and Georgia, continued its occupation of Georgian territory.

Mr. Yushchenko condemned what he called the "aggression" of Russian forces in Georgia, while pledging that Ukraine will not become Moscow's next target.

The Yushchenko address was followed by a rare parade of Ukraine military hardware, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and missile launchers. Military jets flew overhead in formation.

In Moscow, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin marked the Ukrainian anniversary with statements calling for closer bilateral relations.