Ukraine, Russia Open ‘New Page’
MOSCOW, Russia -- Ukraine’s new president Viktor Yanukovych vowed Friday to end years of acrimony with Russia, as he paid his first visit to Moscow since taking office last week.
“This five-year period has given us the opportunity to open a new page in our relations,” Yanukovych said, referring to his five-year term, following talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.
Medvedev said Moscow and Kiev would work to resolve irritants that had accumulated under Yanukovych’s predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, who angered Russia by seeking to bring Ukraine into the NATO military alliance.
“There are many questions that have been frozen recently in our relations. We have decided to reanimate them,” said Medvedev, seated alongside Yanukovych at a press conference.
Medvedev singled out the hot-button issues of Russian gas exports to Ukraine and the future of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet as subjects for discussion.
The Black Sea Fleet is based in Ukraine’s port of Sevastopol under a lease that expires in 2017 and that the Kremlin is keen to extend. Yanukovych indicated he was open to compromise with Russia on the fleet’s future.
“I think that very soon we will have an answer to this question that will satisfy both Ukraine and Russia,” Yanukovych said. His predecessor, Yushchenko, had insisted the fleet should leave in 2017.
Yanukovych reiterated earlier promises that Ukraine would be “a European, non-aligned state” on his watch — a sign he does not intend to push for NATO membership.
Yanukovych later met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who urged the visiting president to bring Ukraine into a Moscow-backed customs union comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Source: The St. Petersburg Times