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Russia hopes new Ukraine leader will not use ties for own ambition

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, January 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed the hope on Tuesday that Ukraine's next president will not play politics with relations between Kiev and Moscow.

"I believe Ukraine's new president will have a full understanding of how to build our relations and will not trade them for ambitions - his or anyone else's - that have nothing in common with the interests of the Ukrainian nation," Lavrov said.

Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will face each other in the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election on February 7 after receiving 35.34% and 25.04%, respectively, in Sunday’s first round.

Lavrov reminded reporters that Moscow had always opposed politicizing or faking bilateral relations.

The frontrunner in the race, former prime minister and Party of Regions leader Yanukovych, has pledged to work to restore good-neighborly relations with Russia if he becomes president.

Tymoshenko, who proved she could work with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in resolving last January’s gas dispute, also said that she would seek to improve relations with Russia, soured in recent years by Kiev's NATO bid and its support for Georgia in the August 2008 war over South Ossetia, as well as other issues.

Russia was accused of interfering in the 2004 election, openly supporting Yanukovych against Viktor Yushchenko, who won after the so-called orange revolution forced a rerun of the second round, and was noticeably quiet in the run-up to Sunday’s vote.

Lavrov refrained from assessing the first round, saying the country’s Central Election Commission and the multitude of international observers would do so better.

Analysts expect whoever wins the second round will take a pragmatic view of relations with Russia, ending the ideological confrontations of Yushchenko’s presidency but consistently pursuing Ukraine’s national interests.