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Ukraine PM pledges to seek EU membership if elected president

RIA Novosti


KIEV, January 14 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko pledged on Thursday that if elected president in January 17 polls she would seek EU membership for the ex-Soviet state as soon as possible.

"My priority in Ukraine's foreign policy is very simple: yes to the EU," the Lvov-based Express newspaper quoted Tymoshenko as saying in an interview.

"We are an integral, historic, geographical and cultural part of Europe," she went on. "We do not need to return to Europe, as we have never left it. Ukrainian is European, and Europe will have to take this fact into account," the premier said.

Tymoshenko also said that she would seek to improve relations with Russia, soured in recent year's by Kiev's NATO bid and its support for Georgia in the August 2008 war over South Ossetia, as well as other issues.

"In building equal relations between Ukraine and Russia, as well as other neighbors, I favor not aggression and criticism, but a clear understanding of the interests of our state, taking into account the interests of other states," she said.

The frontrunner in the race, former premier and leader of the opposition Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych, has also said he would make work to improve Russia good-neighborly again if he becomes president.

With Western leaning incumbent Viktor Yushchenko struggling to reach single figures in opinion polls, it seems increasingly likely the Ukraine's next president will be pro-Russian.

VTsIOM, a Russian pollster, said on Wednesday 30.5% of those surveyed intended to back Yanukovych in the elections, followed by Tymoshenko with 13.9%.