Ukraine's Yanukovych Visits Russia To Mend Ties
KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's new President, Viktor Yanukovych, says his visit to Moscow will mark the first step in a major improvement in relations with Russia.
Mr Yanukovych has arrived in Moscow ahead of talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and PM Vladimir Putin.
Mr Yanukovych defeated the pro-Western candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko, in last month's election.
He says he wants good relations with Russia and the West, and has already visited EU headquarters in Brussels.
"Ukraine attributes major importance to relations with Russia. We shall do everything possible to bring our relations back to strategic partnership," Mr Yanukovych was quoted as saying by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency before the visit.
He stood as the pro-Russian candidate in Ukraine's 2004 election, but lost in a re-run vote following the Orange Revolution.
Moscow is delighted that the pro-Western leaders of the Orange Revolution have now been defeated, the BBC's Richard Galpin reports from the Russian capital.
The big question is how far the reconciliation between Moscow and Kiev will go, our correspondent adds.
Gas supplies may be a source of friction in the talks. Officials say the Ukrainian leader is expected to lobby for lower gas prices, as well as seek billions in loans from Russia to help cover the country's soaring budget deficit.
Other contentious issues include a border dispute and the fate of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine's port of Sevastopol. Its lease is set to expire in 2017.
The Kremlin is keen to extend the lease, but Mr Yanukovych's pro-Western predecessor Viktor Yushchenko had opposed the move. Mr Yanukovych has promised to seek a compromise.
Source: BBC News