Ukraine seeks reset in relations with Russia

Russian Federation, Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) meets with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko (L) in Moscow on October 23, 2009. (AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova)
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister is in Moscow seeking to reset relations after a period of high tension between Moscow and Kiev. The two sides agreed to depoliticize points of conflict.

“Ukraine is prepared to renew dialogue on all levels up to the highest,” Foreign Minister Pyotr Poroshenko said prior to his meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. He also said he didn’t like the term “reset” applied to his mission.

Following the consultations, the Russian senior diplomat was cautiously optimistic on the prospects for progress:

“We’ve agreed that solving all issues, including controversial ones, which are bound to arise from time to time, must be done through a dialogue, through negotiations, in a calm manner, without unneeded politicization and taking both parties’ interests into account.”

Lavrov said he believed Russia and Ukraine should build their relations on the basis of economy and bilateral trade. Poroshenko also announced that several rounds of talks between foreign ministers will follow soon. Later, the Ukrainian and Russian prime ministers are to meet for further discussions.

One issue referred to by the ministers specifically was the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol in the Crimea. Lavrov and Poroshenko said there will be no revision of the agreements on the naval base. Earlier, a number of politicians and activists in Ukraine called on their government to kick the fleet out as soon as possible, arguing that it violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and threatened its security. According to the agreements, the Black Sea Fleet base is to remain in its current location until at least 2017.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine have been sliding downwards over recent years. Russia is concerned by Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO, Kiev’s policy regarding the status of Russian language and the perceived revision of common history among others. Ukraine accuses Russia of aggressive imperialistic intentions, messing with Ukrainian domestic politics and arm-twisting over natural gas supply.

In August, President Medvedev delivered a public speech addressed to his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko, summing up Russia’s grievances with Ukraine, and bluntly accusing him of anti-Russian policy. He also said he had indefinitely deferred sending a new ambassador to Kiev after recalling the old one in June. Sergey Lavrov told the media on Friday that the new ambassador will arrive in Kiev “in due course.”

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