Russia, Ukraine embraces new era in relations

10:31, May 19, 2010      

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President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday wrapped up a two-day visit to Ukraine, concluding his seventh meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich since the latter assumed office in February and bringing home a handful of agreements.

Analysts said the frequent meetings between the two leaders reflected a rapid boom in bilateral ties as Russia and Ukraine have embarked on a fast track toward a new era of relations based upon practical cooperation.

WHAT THEY BROUGHT IN THE LUGGAGE

Just the sheer list of agreements Medvedev brought back to Moscow from Kiev is quite impressive.

Building the South Stream pipeline, integrating the two country's national gas monopolies, keeping Russia's Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol, allowing Ukrainian participation in the creation of a Moscow-based international financial hub, establishing joint ventures to run the Russian-designed global navigation system Glonass and to sell the giant cargo planes Antonov abroad, cooperating in border services ...

All of these agreements, and even just the intentions of the kind, were unthinkable just a few months ago.

Yanukovich stated Tuesday that his country "should modernize her relations with Russia," local media reported. The president added that he was optimistic about the prospects of economic cooperation with his country's powerful neighbor.

Elena Bondarenko, a member of the Supreme Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament,told Xinhua on Tuesday that Yanukovich's policy of re-approachment to Russia "has been supported by two thirds of the Ukrainian citizens."

"We haven't seen such an intensity of contacts for decades. And this is just a beginning. The latest visit was actually a breakthrough in our relations. Russia showed that it was our reliable strategic partner, and the most important one," Bondarenko said.

WHAT THEY LEFT BEHIND

One of the most important results of the visit, as Bondarenko pointed out, is that Kiev and Moscow have repaired the trust between them.

This is highly symbolic because over half of the Ukrainian population speaks Russian as their mother tongue, while Russia is happy to have a neighbor who "doesn't spit in her well," she said.

Admitting that Ukrainian society is deeply split on the issue of the attitude toward the new national leadership, she said that Yanukovich enjoys the support of the majority of the people and thus has "carte blanche" for his policies.

Meanwhile, "if in a years time or so every Ukrainian citizen would feel that his or her life becomes better, the political and grassroots opposition will lose its steam completely," she added.

Officially, Kiev still did not abandon its intentions to affiliate with the European Union in one way or another. Moscow used to be highly suspicious when Kiev looked at the West, even though Brussels has been reluctant to give the green light for the eastern "solicitor," which has been considered a little bit too pushy.

Now, at least in public, the Kremlin has become less jealous. Medvedev told the Ukrainian-Russian economic forum on Tuesday that his country recognizes "the sovereign right of Kiev to develop its relations with the European Union."

In addition, Bondarenko saw some parallels between the recent Russian-Ukrainian development and the history of the European Union.

"Europe's unification started with the teaming of the separate nations' economical institutions, and eventually that has led to the full-scale union," she said.

"So there is a chance that every separate trade, economical, humanitarian agreement between Kiev and Moscow would finally lead to the formation of a closely-tied union between the two countries," she added.

However, doubts remain over the apparent "honeymoon" between Moscow and Kiev, although skeptics have become more and more reticent, said Ukrainian political expert Mikola Veresen.

"People who don't sing 'alliluah' to Yanukovich are becoming more and more quiet, the further the more. This is not because they become content -- they just started to realize that they have no real tools to change the situation, that the new political vector is for a long time," Veresen told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the expert said, "I think if Russia will provide Ukraine with massive economic assistance, it wouldn't help the Ukrainian economy but weaken the Russian one."

Source: Xinhua
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