Yushchenko To Skip Summit Of CIS Leaders

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko will “obviously” skip the next summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States following a sharp exchange with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said Tuesday.

Viktor Yushchenko

“The decision of the Ukrainian president is quite obvious because the president of Russia said he would have a dialog only with the new leadership of Ukraine,” Lytvyn said in an interview with Channel 5.

Lytvyn commented on a report in Kommersant daily that Yushchenko had decided not to attend the summit of the CIS on October 9 in Moldova after the sharp exchange with Medvedev.

Yushchneko’s office declined to comment on the report.

Medvedev, in a letter to the Ukrainian president last week, accused Yushchenko of promoting “anti-Russian” policy, and announced suspending the arrival of Russia’s new ambassador in Ukraine indefinitely.

In a reply, Yushchenko said he was “very disappointed” by the “unfriendly” letter, and suggested holding a bilateral meeting as soon as possible to discuss the problems. Medvedev flatly refused the idea.

The sharp exchange underscores worsening relations between Russia and Ukraine, the two biggest countries in Europe by territory, and come a year after Russia has invaded into Georgia, a pro-Western ally of Ukraine.

In years and months prior to the military incursion, Russia has been accusing Georgia and its president Mikhail Saakashvili of promoting an anti-Russian policy.

After the five-day war, Georgia has announced it will pull out from the CIS, a loose alliance of former Soviet Union states created in 1991.

The developments come as Moscow’s foreign policy has become more assertive as Russia has been seeking to strengthen the alliance perhaps towards creating a union that would be de-facto controlled by the Kremlin.

Yushchenko earlier complained that the CIS has become very ineffective with Russia, the biggest trade partner in the alliance, often restricting imports of goods from other countries.

The recent sharp exchange between Yushchenko and Medvedev has also put in focus the possibility of the military clash between Ukraine and Russia, especially after Medvedev has recently submitted legislation that allows use of military force in other countries for “protecting” holders of Russian passports.

Media reports said that Russia has been apparently handing out Russian passports to people in Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine populated mostly by ethnic Russians.

Yuriy Kostenko, a first deputy foreign minister, said there are “tens of thousands” of people in Ukraine that hold Russian and Ukrainian passports, and the suggested legislation has become a “concern” in Ukraine.

Kostenko, however, ruled out the possibility of the military conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Source: Ukrainian Journal