KIEV, September 12 (Itar-Tass) —— Ukraine reiterates its commitment for partner relations with Russia, Ukrainian Prime Minister and leader of the Party of Regions Nikolai Azarov said on Monday.
“We share the common history with Russia, we have never been hostile towards it,” he said in an interview with France’s Le Figaro.
The Ukrainian prime minister however stressed that his country’s strive for European integration is its “strategic choice.”
“We share European democratic values. These values serve as a guarantee of Ukraine’s sustainable development,” he said.
In the mean time, he said Europe’s criticism of a trial against the country’s former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko was ungrounded. Timoshenko is facing charges of office abuse while signing gas deals with Russia in 2009. “Timoshenko and the then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, tete-a-tete, signed a contract on the prices for Russian gas, which infringes on the country’s economic interests. She falsified documents for these ends. This contract was approved neither by the cabinet of ministers nor by the company Naftogaz,” Azarov stressed.
“In a political sense, Mrs Timoshenko is not a rival but a woman of the past,” he said.
When asked to comment on the recent deterioration in relations with Russia, Azarov said “it could stem from a complicated political situation in the country, from the fact that we are criticised by the European Union and it makes the Russian leaders think that we are week and they might take advantage of it and make ultimatums.”
“Such approaches are inadmissible in relations between states,” he stressed.
The head of the Ukrainian government said he sees no links between the reduction of prices on Russian gas and Ukraine’s joining the Customs Union. “Europe also invites us to join the free trade zone. But it never puts any conditions. Unlike othet Customs Union members, Ukraine is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has certain liabilities in this connection. Why should Russia demand that we continue to fulfil gas contracts that loss-making for us and at the same time oblige us to join the Customs Union and cancel a dozen of other contracts we have with the WTO,” he said.
In his words, the stay of the Russian Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol was prolonged because Ukraine had no other choice. “The budget was empty, the situation them was even worse than in Greece today, cooperation with the International Monetary Fund was suspended. In such conditions we could not afford paying higher prices forced on us by the contract signed by Timoshenko. We then turned to the Russian authorities and this solution was reached,” he added.