Yushchenko To Blame For Russia-Ukraine Spat: Medvedev

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday that his "Russophobe" Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko was the sole reason for the decline in relations between the two countries.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) speaks during an interview with German journalist.

Everything Yushchenko had done in recent years had worked to damage traditional links between Russia and Ukraine, Medvedev said.

"We have a very difficult relationship with Ukraine, but this is not a dispute between the two societies," Medvedev said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.

"To be quite honest, all the controversy and all the problems are related to one person: the current president of Ukraine," he said.

"He is under the influence of Russophobe ideas. Everything he has done in recent years has damaged the traditional links between Ukraine and Russia."

The comments are the latest rebuke Medvedev has delivered to the Ukrainian leader.

In August Medvedev attacked what he called Ukraine's "anti-Russian" attitude and announced Moscow would not be sending a new ambassador to Kiev because of Yushchenko's policies.

Russia-Ukraine relations have deteriorated since Yushchenko's election in 2005 in the wake of the Orange Revolution that ousted the old pro-Moscow elite in Ukraine.

Yushchenko set his country on a course towards membership of NATO and the European Union that angered Russia.

Disputes over Ukrainian payments for Russian gas have also soured relations, and last week Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned that European gas supplies could be interrupted if Ukraine failed to pay.

Medvedev said he hoped "more pragmatic forces would take the reins of power" after Ukraine's presidential election, planned for January.

Yushchenko is standing in the election but has little chance of victory, according to opinion polls.

Source: AFP