ROAR: Moscow expects “less hysterical” dialog with new Ukrainian president

As the situation is expected to change soon in relations between Russia and Ukraine, new ambassador Mikhail Zurabov has arrived to Kiev five months after he was appointed.

The former Russian Healthcare Minister was proposed as the ambassador in mid-June last year. In August, President Dmitry Medvedev refrained from sending the ambassador, explaining his move as a response to “an openly anti-Russian stand” that Kiev had taken.

Moscow even refused to deal with the current Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. But Medvedev then expressed hope that “a new era will begin.” And it seems that this era is coming with the second round of the Ukrainian presidential election. Yushchenko lost in the first round on January 17.

On January 19, Medvedev met with Zurabov and asked him to “try to make the maximum contribution into building friendly relations between our countries.” The president expressed hope “that the Ukrainian election will produce a sensible efficient leadership, which would seek a constructive, friendly and comprehensive relationship with the Russia.”

Analysts believe that Medvedev’s decision to send the ambassador to Kiev between the two rounds of election “shows a clear stance of the Kremlin.” If other candidates had made it to the run-off, the approach could have been different, BaltInfo news agency said.

“Medvedev has demonstrated that it is not paramount for Russia as to who will win in the second round,” Aleksandr Skakov, an analyst at the Russian Institute of Strategic Research, told the agency. If Yushchenko had been successful in the first round, the Kremlin could have changed the decision, Skakov said. “But it was unlikely,” he added.

Moscow is ready to build relations with whoever wins in the second round, agrees Sergey Mikheev of the Center for Political Technologies. “Russia has confirmed once again that we have a normal attitude to the Ukrainian state, the people, and the majority of Ukrainian politicians, except radical ones,” he told the agency.

“This is an invitation for the remaining candidates to have a dialog [with Russia],” Mikheev said. It is also “a kind of ‘a signal’ from Moscow that Yushchenko’s policy has failed” and that the candidates are expected to be building bilateral relations “on the less ideological and hysterical basis,” he added.

The political system in Ukraine “is becoming increasingly stable,” Dmitry Orlov, general director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications, believes. “The outcome of the voting, the way how the main political forces have accepted the results, perspectives of the development of Ukraine’s political system and Kiev’s relations with Moscow can only be characterized as a positive trend,” Orlov told websute.

Russia accepts both Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko, believes Orlov. “Both politicians are ready to take Russia’s interests into account, and they consider our partnership as strategic and long-term,” he said.

The difference between the two Ukrainian presidential candidates for Russia “is only in details,” the analyst said. “For example, they concern the status of the Russian language and some Russian investment in Ukraine.”

In many other issues both Yanukovich and Tymoshenko are good for Russia, “unlike Yushchenko, who was a factor of conflict in relations with Russia,” Orlov said.

At the same time, some analysts believe that Zurabov is not the most appropriate candidate to be a representative in Ukraine. The ambassador in Ukraine is a very important job, because this country means a strategic direction for Russia, said Bogdan Bespalko, secretary of the Center of Ukrainian and Belarusian studies at Moscow State University.

“Without that country Russia is cut off from the West, and Ukraine is also a transit state, Bespalko told BaltInfo. “And the job of an ambassador means something more important than simply the representation.”

“Zurabov is not a politician in the full sense of the word, not a public figure, ideologue or a specialist on Russian-Ukrainian relations,” believes Konstantin Zatulin, director of the Institute of the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The new ambassador has not participated in the programs connected with Ukraine either, Zatulin told the agency.

However, Zurabov will hold not only diplomatic status, the media note. As well as former ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin, he will also be Special Representative of the President of Russia on Trade and Economic Cooperation with Ukraine. And Zurabov will have the same wide authority that his predecessor had, Vremya Novostey daily said.

First, Zurabov’s credentials were prepared without mentioning Yushchenko’s name, observers stress. But the copy of the document presented to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry contained Yushchenko’s name.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Russian leadership “has recognized” Yushchenko as the president, Moscow won “the diplomatic struggle,” observers say. Medvedev sent the ambassador only after “Yushchenko suffered humiliation in the election,” Argumenty i Fakty weekly said. At the same time, Moscow has demonstrated simultaneously “its respect for international norms and the Ukrainian people,” it added.

As Russia preferred not to interfere into this election cycle in Ukraine, Zurabov did not say if he was ready to meet Tymoshenko or Yanukovich. But the campaigns of both candidates have welcomed the news of the ambassador’s arrival.

Yanukovich’s Party of Regions has blamed the current Ukrainian leadership for the deterioration of relations between Kiev and Moscow, online newspaper said. The party would welcome the meeting with Zurabov, “but embassies usually take initiative in such issues,’ it added,

Zurabov’s mission will become full-fledged after the presentation of the credentials to the Ukrainian president. “Yushchenko is certain that they will be presented to him,” Vremya Novostey said. “However, officials in Moscow do not think so,” the paper added. According to the daily, “Zurabov does not want to hasten and will be waiting for the results of the second round.”

Sergey Borisov, RT