Medvedev Blasts 'Anti-Russian' Ukraine

MOSCOW, Russia -- President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday furiously attacked Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko, saying his administration was anti-Russian and had caused the worst crisis in ties since the Soviet collapse.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev stands as he visits a Russian military unit in Vladikavkaz, August 8, 2009.

Medvedev said that Moscow would not be sending a new ambassador to Kiev due to the policies of Yushchenko, who was ignoring "principles of friendship and partnership with Russia".

Yushchenko took power in the wake of the 2004 Orange Revolution that ousted the old pro-Moscow elite in Ukraine and set his country on a course towards membership of NATO and the European Union that irked Russia.

"I want to inform you that under the current anti-Russian course of the Ukrainian leadership, I have taken a decision to postpone sending a new ambassador to Kiev," Medvedev said in the letter to the Ukrainian president.

Ukraine is to hold crucial presidential elections on January 17 in which pro-Western forces are again expected to square up against figures more loyal to Russia.

"Russia hopes a new political leadership in Ukraine will be ready to create relations between our people that respond to the real hopes of our people," Medvedev added in the letter, excerpts of which were published by the Kremlin.

He said in a video blog also released by the Kremlin that "the strain in our relations between our two countries has hit unprecedented levels".

Russia had been due to send a new envoy to Ukraine after the departure of its last ambassador, former Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Medvedev fired off a litany of accusations at the Ukrainian leadership over Moscow's war last year with Georgia, historical disputes, language, the economy and religion.

He accused Ukraine of still seeking to ship arms to pro-Western Georgia and said its leadership "shares responsibility" with Georgia for the "crimes" committed in the war.

He said the Yushchenko administration was also creating complications for the work of Russia's Black Sea fleet which is based on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine.

And he accused Ukraine of interfering in the Russian Orthodox Church by creating unfavourable conditions for the visit of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to the country earlier this month.

Yushchenko is expected to stand in January's presidential elections but is given little chance as his poll ratings are at a single-digit all-time low.

Leading the polls is the head of the Regions Party Viktor Yanukovich, who is likely to be Moscow's preferred candidate amd draws his strength from the mainly Russian-speaking east of the country.

In second place is Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Orange Revolution ally of Yushchenko but who has now fallen out with the president and takes a more careful line on relations with Russia.

Ties between Russia and Ukraine have nose-dived over the last months, most notably during a gas crisis early this year when a row over non-payment of debts by Kiev prompted Russia to cut off gas to western Europe.

Source: AFP