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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April 2005, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Ukraine demands Russian respect
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Kiev

Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Tymoshenko led the protests alongside Viktor Yushchenko
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says she cancelled her first official visit to Moscow because she wants Russia to respect her country.

It should have been her first official trip since taking office in the wake of the victory of the Orange Revolution.

But it was postponed after Russia's state prosecutor warned that she remains on a wanted list relating to claims of fraud in the 1990s.

Officially, the trip was delayed as the prime minister was "too busy".

She is supposed to be tied up with urgent agricultural matters as it is spring sowing season in Ukraine.

But speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Ms Tymoshenko made it clear she was protesting against "an act of stupidity" by a bureaucrat, and one that she insists must be corrected.
I know the Russian political elite has got used to the Ukraine suffering from an inferiority complex, but I want this to disappear from our relationship
Yulia Tymoshenko

"I think everyone remembers how certain Russian bureaucrats used to work against the Ukrainian opposition, I think it is hard to drop old habits," she said.

"I want to believe the statement is just the stupidity of one bureaucrat and that it is not the national politics of Russia. If that is the case, then that bureaucrat must correct his stupidity."

The incident has reignited tensions between Moscow and Kiev - already strained since the controversial elections that sparked the Orange Revolution here.

Russia campaigned openly then for the candidate of power, Viktor Yanukovych.

Now Ms Tymoshenko says it is time Russia stopped treating Ukraine as its inferior, and learned some respect.

EU enthusiasm

She called for the two countries to build a long-lasting relationship as equals.

Ms Tymoshenko also spoke about Ukraine's relationship with the European Union. One of the rallying cries of the revolution had been future EU membership.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Tymoshenko made orange tops and braided hair fashionable

"The Ukrainian government and the president are working towards EU membership with great enthusiasm and I'm sure it will result in success," she said.

"If nothing changes in the internal workings of the EU then I'm certain that the people of every country in Europe will support us joining the European family."

The EU was supportive of Viktor Yushchenko and the revolution as hundreds of thousands of peope took to the streets after the disputed elections.

Ms Tymoshenko said she never doubted for one day that Mr Yushchenko would become president.

"I watched as that faith was justified," she said. "The old bastions of the post-communist regime collapsed before my very eyes. The monsters who had kept Ukraine in a criminal state left the stage."

Head for fashion

Ms Tymoshenko dismissed rumours of a growing divide between the two leaders of the revolution, Mr Yushchenko and herself, as groundless.

I feel a huge sense of responsibility towards the people, I have to produce results so they don't think they have made a mistake
Yulia Tymoshenko

She told the BBC she planned to work side-by-side with the president for decades and insisted the two had no serious disagreements.

Ms Tymoshenko also revealed she was aware of some of the other things people on the streets were saying about her.

As well as the orange jumpers and outfits, her braided hair became a trademark feature during the days of protests - a style that has since been copied around the world.

"I just heard the latest joke about my hair: 'Do you know what that is on her head? It's a steering wheel to drive the state'," she said.

"It's just comfy this way and I think it suits me. I'm honoured that models around the world are sporting the same style on catwalks these days, that means Ukraine is not only forming the fashion for politics and democracy but for hairdos too, and I am very proud of that."


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