Ukraine to meet Russia as equal and strengthen ties to West

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The Independent Online

Ukraine's incoming Foreign Minister said the new government would mend bridges with Moscow but there would be no return to the subordinate role of the bad old days. First on the agenda for president-elect Viktor Yushchenko will be a visit to the Russian capital "in order to begin a new basis of our relationship", said Borys Tarasyuk, who was sacked as foreign minister in 2000 and is expected to again fill the post.

"This will not be the visit of a subordinate. This will be the visit off an equal partner, ready to co-operate constructively," he told The Independent.

He said there would be a fresh start in Ukraine's relationship with the EU and Nato after years of false courtship, where previous governments declared their intention to join but took no steps to meet the criteria.

"We will match our declarations with concrete deeds. The first steps of our new administration, of a new government, will be to demonstrate to the European Union it is dealing with another kind of Ukraine - a democratic Ukraine."

Mr Tarasyuk also sounded the death knell for Moscow's planned economic bloc, seen as a bulwark against the EU. He said it was Moscow's intention to recreate the geopolitical space of the former Soviet Union. "This Single Economic Space is the same thing but in a different wrapping."

It would be almost impossible for the bloc to proceed without Ukraine and its population of more than 50 million.