Biden Holds Telephone Talks With Ukrainian President

KIEV, Ukraine -- U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden held telephonic talks Monday with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to discuss the steps being taken by Ukraine to put its economy on a stable path to recovery.

US Vice President Joe Biden

"They discussed the steps Ukraine is taking to put its economy on a stable path to recovery," the White House said in a statement following the conversation between the two leaders.

They also discussed issues of bilateral and regional importance, including Ukraine's progress in forging closer ties with the United States and Europe, it said.

The talks came as Russia continues to make its presence felt in the former Soviet republic with Ukraine readying to open its border to Russian business and establish a free trade zone with its eastern neighbor.

Yanukovych's taking over the presidency from Viktor Yushchenko has renewed prospects of Ukraine forging closer ties with Russia, and a 25-year extension of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's presence at Sevastopol.

The Black Sea Fleet was expected to be relocated from Sevastopol to Russia's Novorossiysk, which was originally looking at possible expansion to accommodate the fleet.

In return for extending the lease, Russia agreed to significant discounts on exports of natural gas to Ukraine, where high gas prices exacerbate its economic troubles.

Ukraine is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet republics, and formed during the break-up of the Soviet Union.

It is the second largest country in Eastern Europe, and most of it was a constituent republic of the USSR from 1923 to 1991.

Source: RTT News