Putin, in Ukraine, calls for neighborly relations

December 23, 2006 03:03

1 minute read.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin assured Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko that Moscow wants good relations, in a meeting that both leaders presented as a break from the strained relationship of the past. Putin's visit Friday to Kiev was his first since pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych returned to power in August, promising to improve Ukraine's chilly relations with Moscow that had been troubled by Yushchenko's pro-Western policies. Russia had given strong support to Yanukovych in his fraud-riddled run for the presidency in 2004, the election that set off the massive "Orange Revolution" demonstrations. "Today, there weren't any emotional problems," Putin told reporters after his talks with Yushchenko. "We had a very constructive, good, friendly dialogue. Everything was very pragmatic and business-like." Putin and Yushchenko oversaw the signing of numerous bilateral accords. Yanukovych, who was to meet later with Putin, attended the signing, but when it came time for a champagne toast, he and Yushchenko ignored each other - a further sign of the increasingly tense power struggle between the men. Yushchenko's and Putin's meeting was in sharp contrast to relations a year ago when the two countries were engaged in a bitter dispute over gas prices. Moscow temporarily cut off supplies to Ukraine, a shutdown that was also felt in Western Europe. The shutoff was widely seen as punishment for Ukraine's pro-Western policies.

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