Ukraine Seeks EU, NATO Ties, Pledges Cooperation With Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine plans to sign an accord with the European Union this year and continue cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization even as it’s “normalizing” relations with Russia, President Viktor Yanukovych said.

Viktor Yanukovych

“I want to reiterate that integration into the European Union didn’t and won’t hurt the development of strategic cooperation with Russia,” Yanukovych said during his annual address to parliament in Kiev today. “Normalizing relations with Russia is an integral part of Ukraine’s European choice.”

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic of 46 million people, is seeking to sign the association agreement with the EU to deepen economic and political ties with the European bloc.

Russia is wooing Ukraine to join its customs union and common economic space with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Membership of the organization would entail annual savings of $8 billion on fuel purchases for Ukraine, which relies on Russia for more than 50 percent of its natural-gas needs, OAO Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Valery Golubev said today.

Yanukovych took over as president last year from Viktor Yushchenko, who advocated closer ties with the West and less dependence on Russia.

The current Ukrainian leader has ruled out formal NATO membership for the country.

“Development of relations with the customs union will be based on a new accord on free trade and a possible agreement on cooperation,” Yanukovych said without elaborating.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will visit Kiev next week as Ukraine seeks to review the gas accord signed in January 2009, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said yesterday.

Source: Bloomberg

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