ACCORDING to various estimates 5,000 to 10,000 people attended George Bush's 25-minute open-air address to the Slovak people. The speech in Hviezdoslavovo square started just after noon today.
The crowd had to wait several hours in the bitter cold for the event to get underway. They were let into the square from 8:30 on after undergoing personal security checks.
In addition to members of parliament, several cabinet ministers also attended.
According to the SITA news agency, several people carrying scissors and penknives were refused entry, but those with umbrellas were allowed to go into the square due to the heavy snow.
Some young women also had their perfume confiscated and
others had to leave tangerines or oranges and apples at the entrance to the square. Those carrying bananas in their handbags were allowed to enter.
SITA also reported that among the people who gathered to hear the speech were people who disagree with President Bush's policies. Some sympathizers of the civil initiative that is critical of both the Russian and the American presidents showed up to hear what the American president had to say.
A female student in the VIP section attracted the attention of some journalists as she was wearing crossed white ribbons on her collar. The white "X" is an anti-Bush and anti-Putin symbol from the Neither-Bush-Nor-Putin initiative.
The student said she was fortunate to get tickets to the VIP section and she had no problems getting in. She underscored that even though she may disagree with somebody, she also wants to know what he or she has to say.
Greenpeace activists distributed leaflets to people undergoing security checks before being allowed entry to the square.
The leaflets attacked Bush for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which designed to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.
Members of the Christian-Democratic Youth were also approaching people at checkpoints with bilingual leaflets announcing that Bush is their friend as he protects the traditional family and supports democracy.
Bush is expected to meet his Russian counterpart President Putin at Bratislava castle soon.
Compiled by Spectator staff from press reports
24. Feb 2005 at 16:00