Russia's Putin Proposes Closer Economic Ties With Ukraine

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday called for closer economic ties with Kiev while meeting with Ukraine's new President Viktor Yanukovych in Moscow.

Russian PM Vladimir Putin

"We know that in engineering, aviation, energy and agricultural spheres we strongly depend on each other. We have a lot to do to make up lost ground," Putin was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

Trade turnover between Russia and Ukraine slumped by about 40 percent last year due to the global economic crisis, Putin noted.

He proposed that the two former Soviet neighbors develop joint projects, including in the energy sector, in third countries.

During the meeting, Putin also invited Ukraine to join a customs union comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

"Join the customs union," Putin told Yanukovych, who suggested making "a sharp turn" in Ukrainian-Russian relations.

Instead of giving an immediate answer, Yanuokovych said: " Ukraine will considerably adjust both its domestic and foreign policies."

Earlier in the day, Yanukovy met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin, pledging to improve bilateral ties after years of tensions under Ukraine's pro-Western leadership.

Relations between Moscow and Kiev deteriorated during the previous presidency of Viktor Yushchenko over an array of disputes, ranging from Ukraine's bid for NATO membership to bitter gas rows.

Source: Xinhua