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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 March, 2005, 02:48 GMT
Russia and Ukraine seek new chapter
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev

Through the swirling snow, three jets touched down in Kiev.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko
This is the leaders' second meeting since the "orange revolution"

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his team arrived in the Ukrainian capital for talks with the new pro-Western President, Viktor Yushchenko.

The last time the Russian leader was in Ukraine was during the election campaign last summer.

His reception then was a lot warmer. Mr Putin came to show his support for the government candidate, Viktor Yanukovych.

The men stood shoulder to shoulder as they watched a military parade in the capital.

But Moscow was accused of directly trying to influence the outcome of the ballot, which strained relations between the neighbouring countries.

The vote was marred by fraud and sparked the mass protests of the "orange revolution". Mr Yushchenko was elected president in a re-run of the poll.

As Russia's president visits Ukraine, people in Kiev tell the BBC what they think of relations with Moscow.

Now Ukraine is on a path towards Europe and away from the Kremlin's traditional sphere of influence.

"Ukraine changed, Russia did not. That's why they must use a different approach now," says International Relations professor Yevhen Fedchenko.

"Russia must recognise that it would be impossible in the future to speak about relations as something abstract and something that's granted."

'A lot to discuss'

In an attempt to improve the relationship a meeting was organised in Kiev between Mr Putin and Mr Yushchenko. The venue was the official residence of the president.

Known as the House with the Chimeras, the building is covered with gargoyles.

When they greeted each other, President Yushchenko commented that they had a lot to discuss.

Some of the issues on the agenda included trade, border security and the future of Russian's Black Sea fleet, which is based in the Crimea.

Supporters of Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych hold portraits of him at the central square in Makeevka, eastern Ukraine
Yushchenko came to power after a disputed poll

"This meeting made us realise that there's no question we can't answer," Mr Yushchenko said.

"We have enough understanding and political will to remove the artificial barriers put up for years on our path toward an equal partnership.

"I believe that today we took an important step to strengthen relations between Ukraine and Russia," he added.

'Brothers'

This is the second time the two leaders have held talks since the orange revolution. The first meeting took place in Moscow, the day after Mr Yushchenko was inaugurated as president.

"Mr Putin is a very clever politician and even though there were bad moments during the elections, I think he's wise enough to find a way to improve things," Ukrainian teacher Galina Dorosh said.

Slavic people should communicate with each other - we're brothers
Olexander Ivanovitch
Ukrainian pensioner

The fact that the two countries are trying to sort this out is a positive sign, according to pensioner Olexander Ivanovitch.

"Slavic people should communicate with each other - we're brothers. The West should be the West, and the East must remain the East.

"Mr Yushchenko is a clever guy, as well as Mr Putin. They're normal guys, they understand each other," he said.

But not everyone was so impressed by the visit.

"The Russian Tsar is here," joked student Olga Golovatenko, in a reference to what some see as Mr Putin's authoritarian style of leadership.

"I'm concerned that Mr Putin treats our president with contempt and he will try to trick Ukraine into doing deals that are advantageous only to Russia."

Business ties

The two countries still have strong business links.

"One of the main priorities of the visit is deepening economics relations between Ukraine and Russia," Mr Putin said at a news conference afterwards.

He pointed out that trade between them reached $17bn a year.

"This is a very high level and it should become the starting point for our further united efforts."

The men spoke to each other for around two hours, much longer than scheduled.

They announced that there will now be a forum set up for a regular dialogue called the Putin-Yushchenko commission.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch the two leaders' first meeting since last year




SEE ALSO:
Yushchenko seeks EU membership
25 Jan 05 |  Europe
Russia and Ukraine face reality
24 Jan 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Ukraine
02 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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