Ex-Premier Tymoshenko Says Russia Swallowing Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine risks losing its sovereignty as it is being swallowed by its giant neighbor, Russia, Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko told the BBC Ukrainian Service on Friday.

Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

"Today we are witnessing a gradual step-by-step absorption of Ukraine and in my opinion this may be followed by more risky consequences for Ukraine, affecting its political sovereignty," Tymoshenko said in the interview.

Russia and Ukraine have seen a thaw in their bilateral relations in recent months after President Viktor Yanukovych took over from strongly pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko.

The two countries have strengthened their economic ties and plan to boost bilateral cooperation in aviation, shipbuilding, space and nuclear energy spheres. A number of joint ventures are expected to be launched.

In late April, Yanukovych and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reached an agreement on extending the lease on the Russian base in Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017, which may be further extended by another five years.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also proposed a merger between Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Ukrainian Naftogaz on April 30. Both moves have been fiercely criticized by the Ukrainian opposition.

"The new authorities view relations with Russia as joint big business. That's why there is a fundamental swing towards Russian national interests and Russian strategic plans, at the expense of Ukraine, of course," Tymoshenko said.

At the same time, the Ukrainian opposition leader stressed that her statement should not be regarded as an "aggressive policy against Russia." "Absolutely not," she said.

Source: RIA Novosti