Medvedev Invites Ukraine President - Elect To Moscow

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia invited Ukrainian president-elect Viktor Yanukovich on Monday to visit Moscow, aiming to consolidate improved relations with Kiev after years of acrimony under the outgoing president.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

President Dmitry Medvedev made the invitation in a letter to Yanukovich released by the Kremlin press service.

Ukraine's electoral commission confirmed on Sunday Yanukovich's win over his rival Yulia Tymoshenko in a runoff on February 7, paving the way for his inauguration. Tymoshenko says she intends challenging the result in court.

If Yanukovich accepts the invitation, it could be his first foreign trip as president, reinforcing expectations that he will steer the former Soviet republic back towards Moscow's orbit.

In a pointed reference to outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko, Medvedev's letter said the election showed that Ukrainians "desired to end the historically doomed attempts to sow discord between the people of our countries."

Both Yanukovich and Tymoshenko said they wanted better relations with Moscow after five years of estrangement under Yushchenko, who was swept to power on a wave of anti-Russian sentiment and wanted Ukraine to join the European Union and NATO.

Western leaders have also congratulated Yanukovich on his win and praised the poll for meeting democratic standards.

During campaigning, Yanukovich stressed the "historical partnership" of Ukraine and Russia that goes beyond strategic relations. But he has also promised to tackle the country's economic problems and move it closer to the EU.

Source: The New York Times