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8 Oct, 2009 12:15

ROAR: Russian-Ukrainian relations “unprecedented”

ROAR: Russian-Ukrainian relations “unprecedented”

Moscow is ready for dialogue with Kiev, but ties are likely to be mended only after the new president is elected in Ukraine.

The heads of states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will meet in Chisinau, Moldova on October 9. However, there will be no separate meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, the media report.

On August 11, President Dmitry Medvedev accused Kiev of anti-Russian policies and delayed sending a new ambassador to Ukraine.

Relations have not improved since then, despite the fact that the Russian foreign minister visited Ukraine on October 7, Russian observers stress. Sergey Lavrov said in Kharkov that Mikhail Zurabov, the new Russian ambassador, “is preparing” for his mission. But it is not clear now when the envoy will start work in Ukraine.

Many analysts supported the decision of the Russian president not to hold a separate meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart during the CIS summit. The Ukrainian authorities are “pursuing anti-Russian policies,” and at the same time they are trying to create “an illusion of dialogue” between the two states,” Kirill Frolov, analyst at the Institute of the CIS countries, told Gazeta daily.

The Russian leadership made it clear that Moscow was interested in the dialogue with Kiev, but would start it only after the presidential election in Ukraine.

Boris Makarenko of the Center for Political Technologies thinks that Ukraine still “wants to see Russia taking a step back.” Nonetheless, some analysts, including Makarenko, do not rule out that Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko will meet not only during a joint session at the CIS summit, but will hold bilateral talks.

The negotiations between the two countries’ foreign ministers were “routine,” and there was nothing “revolutionary,” Makarenko told Gazeta daily. At the same time, he stressed the importance of the event: “That means that the contacts are being maintained.”

Vremya Novostey daily described the current state of Russian-Ukrainian relations as “unprecedented”. The modern history of intergovernmental relations “does not probably know a similar extraordinary occurrence,” the daily said.

“However, the development of relations between countries on the post-Soviet space, especially in the framework of the CIS, itself seems unprecedented,” the paper noted.

Ukraine has been considering the CIS only a place “for meetings with leaders of the CIS countries to solve a number of issues,” Novye Izvestia daily wrote. Yushchenko rarely visited the CIS summits, because the Ukraine’s leadership is not very interested in this organization,” the paper said.

Kiev explains Yushchenko’s decision to go to Chisinau “only by national interests in connection with the change of political situation in Moldova,” the daily noted.

However, many observers have thought that Yushchenko would try to hold bilateral talks with Medvedev, the paper said. Kiev is interested in improving economic relations with Russia, not only political ones. First of all, the problem of Russia’s gas supplies is still very acute.

Moscow has “increasing political risks” in Ukraine, Dmitry Abzalov, analyst at the Center for Political Conjuncture, believes. But the risks are not only political. The analyst mentioned “unfriendly moves against Russian companies” made by Kiev. Abzalov explained this by attempts of Ukraine’s leadership to “maneuver between interests of Russia and the European Union.”

To gain appropriate positions in Europe and uphold its sovereignty and independence Kiev may use control over transit of Russian energy supplies to Europe, Andrey Suzdaltsev of the Higher School of Economics told Vremya Novostey.

Relations with Moscow are also one of the main factors of the Ukraine’s internal politics. “For Mr. Yushchenko, even an illusory normalization of relations with the Kremlin may become an important political success,” RBC daily wrote.

“The meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents would be an event of Yushchenko’s campaign,” Mikhail Delyagin, director of Institute of Globalization Problems, told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily. “I’m not certain that Medvedev wants it.”

Moscow is not interested in developing the dialogue with Yushchenko for pragmatic reasons too, observers say. Taking into account Ukraine’s realities, the next president may simply forget agreements between Moscow and Yushchenko, Delyagin said.

Voters in Ukraine “will punish Yushchenko for his failures,” Makarenko of the Center for Political Technologies said. The election will soon show what new course Kiev will pursue, the analyst added.

The agenda of the new Ukrainian presidency is being built now, Makarenko wrote in Kommersant daily. It is better for Russia “not to regard with favor, nor to alienate any considerable political force,” he said.

Moscow should also understand the “interdependency” of the two countries, he added. “Any confrontation in the issue of gas supplies do harm to both sides,” he stressed. Ukraine, for its part, should establish its identity through success in “building a stable and prosperous society,” the analyst added.

As for membership of NATO, Ukraine needs “more serious grounds than the desire just to spite Russia,” Makarenko noted. But despite all the problems in the bilateral relations, there are no difficulties that are impossible to overcome, he said. “It is high time to build a new agenda,” the analyst stressed.

Sergey Borisov, RT