Ukraine will never join military bloc, including NATO - Yanukovych
KIEV, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, supported by more than a third of the voters in the country's presidential election, has said Ukraine will never join a military alliance.
Answering the question on whether the ex-Soviet state would join NATO, the leader of the pro-Russian Party of Regions said: "Ukraine will never be a bloc state and will join no military alliance. This is the Ukrainian people's position, which we should respect."
The presidential polls took place in the country on Sunday. With 40% of the ballots counted, Yanukovych is leading in the elections, gaining 36.74% of the vote. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko trails with 24.45%.
The two contenders are likely to face each other in a runoff as none of the candidates is gaining 50% plus one vote needed to win the elections in the first round.
The country's incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko, who has sought for NATO membership, has garnered 5.03% of the vote.
Both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko have pledged to improve ties with Russia, soured over Kiev's NATO bid, gas disputes and the former Soviet republic's support for Georgia in the August 2008 war over South Ossetia.
Yushchenko, who was brought to power as a result of the 2004 Orange Revolution, earlier said his reelection was "the only realistic way of standing up for Ukraine and Ukrainians" and continuing the policies he had pursued for the past five years.